A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, exploring the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself
Paris in the 1920s. It is a city of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club's loyal denizens, including the rising photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol, and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.
As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more sinister: collaboration with the Nazis.
Told in a kaleidoscope of voices, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 evokes this incandescent city with brio, humour, and intimacy. A brilliant work of fiction and a mesmerising read, it is Francine Prose's finest novel yet.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
A distinguished scholar and critic, Francine Prose has broken away from her academic persona to write an audacious, ambitious, flamboyant novel evoking the louche underworld of the Paris cabaret scene, when bohemians and unsavoury characters mingled with aristocrats and fraudsters. Adopting multiple unreliable narrator personae, she focusses on the ambitions of a Hungarian photographer (inspired by Brassai) and a sinister cross-dressing female racing driver, Lou Villars (inspired by real life lesbian athlete Violette Morris), who later becomes a spy for the Gestapo. Prose’s impersonations of these demi-monde figures is impressive, and her Picasso-style fractured and distorted canvas is peopled with a rich cast of cameos, animating a period of louche transgression when Paris was a mecca for every human desire. Villars is a ghastly gorgon, fascinating and repellent: so terrible that it is preferable to meet her as a fictional character than to contemplate her real existence.
About the Author
Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.
Many sure-footed novelists have tried to embody Paris in its boozy, gender-bending, art-and-outrage pre-occupation golden age of the '20s and '30s before, but the ever-exceptional Prose succeeds in making the city alive by supplying it with a dissonant, avant-garde chorus of voices...--Interview Magazine
Number Of Pages: 448
Published: 22nd April 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 16.5 x 3.5
Weight (kg): 0.65