I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction and feel that World War 2 is an overused setting, but I really liked Francine Prose's novel, whose title is inspired by a famous photograph. Like some other of her books, it has a cast of characters all loosely connected and switches points of view. She finds new ways to bring life to a somewhat musty genre. I also liked "Mister Monkey."
Reading this book was like developing an acquired taste. At first, I thought it was weird and quirky as were the characters, but as I continued reading I developed an appreciation of what each character added to the story.
I almost gave up on reading this book because it was so confusing at the start with so many narrators and genres. I persisted, and I'm glad that I did.
I was conscious that my approach to the book changed dramatically once I realized that it was based on fact. I resisted the temptation to start googling the characters, and instead let the fictional book take me where it wanted me to go. There is a 'Cabaret'-style artifice to the book, which became increasingly dark as the narrative went on.
For my complete review see:
long, complex and beautifully written. i read the first quarter then gave up for lack of time and read the final chapters... but then skipped all through the middle. every voice is different.
loved the countess and her quirky Husband but Lou ? not so much she seemed to be sleep walking through most of the story yet it read well sometimes it got stuck in moral platitudes but not so much I couldn't stomach it.
Very engrossing book. Through the alternating voices of several characters, the author takes the reader into Paris from the late 1920s to just before the end of World War II. Most of the main characters are not sympathetic but I did have sympathy for their difficulties in love, self-identity and making choices in an increasingly dark and brutal country. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the ending, which seemed inadequate.
"As a teenager, athlete and Olympic hopeful Louisianne “Lou” Villars travels to Paris, where she becomes a coat check girl at the infamous Chameleon Club, a cabaret favored by the city's bohemian demimonde, Lou falls in (and out of) love with performer Arlette, eventually achieving notoriety as a cross-dressing professional racecar driver with connections to the Nazi party. Inspired by the subjects of Brassaï's iconic 1932 photograph "Lesbian Couple at the Monocle," Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, draws on the real-life experiences of Violette Morris and her contemporaries." Historical Fiction May 2014 newsletter http://www.libraryaware.com/996/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/e50d3b6d-378e-4915-9d8d-81d97c403015?postId=c0b70f16-386e-48a4-b591-361bd05d1065
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