Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

Title: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Author: Francine Prose
Genre: Adult Historical/Cultural Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: April 22/2014
Acquired:  Print ARC provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, set in Paris from the late 1920s into the dark years of World War II, that explores the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself.

Emerging from the austerity and deprivation of the Great War, Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place 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 patrons, including rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

As the years pass, their fortunes-and the world itself-evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a racecar driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant 20s give way to the Depression of the 30s, Lou experiences another metamorphosis-sparked by tumultuous events-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 that circle around the dark star of Lou Villars, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 evokes this incandescent city with brio, humor, and intimacy. Exploring a turbulent time defined by terror, bravery, and difficult moral choices, it raises critical questions about truth and memory and the nature of storytelling itself. A brilliant work of fiction and a mesmerizing read, it is Francine Prose's finest novel yet.


In one word: enrapturing. A beautifully intoxicating mash up of lives, and loves, in 1920's Paris that collided in my mind to create a trillion different sparks of emotion. I want to write this review from a completely subjective point of view, and  although one can argue that all book reviews are subjective, I want to make a point of it. I'm not an avid reader of historical fiction, nor am I easily swayed by a promising synopsis, but Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 stamped it's words onto my heart, and I'd be a lying fool if I didn't admit that it changed the way I look at the genre.

There is so much to be found in the stories no one remembers to tell. But there were five people in this narrative that were willing to share theirs. Told from two styles of narration, first, and third person, Lovers at the Chameleon Club Paris 1932 was a depiction of art imitating art. Francine Prose drew inspiration from the likes of real lives, including Violette Morris (character, Lou Villars): female athlete and Nazi spy, and Tropic of Cancer novelist Henry Miller (character, Lionel Maine). In the author's imagined Paris, these characters became intertwined in each other's existence in the most subtle, and extravagant ways. Friends became lovers, lovers became downfalls; desire, pain, strength, identity, and betrayal became the perfect backdrop for life, and life became a story to tell. 

I enjoyed the first hand accounts the most. I couldn't get enough of the skewed realities that each character seemed to exist in. Francine Prose created characters that seemed to become even better story tellers than she was, and soon my mind just refused to believe that I was reading fiction. I wanted these characters to be living, and breathing, flesh. I wanted to know that these lives were actually lived, their feelings were felt, and their energies thrown out into the world that I'M residing in. Lovers at the Chameleon Club Paris 1932 was a force, it was a conductor of laughter, and tears, and distress, and some of the strongest emotions I've felt while reading a book, in a long, long time. 

How would someone else describe YOUR life? Who could do justice to the things you experienced, the moments of triumph and defeat? Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 was unlike any other multiple perspective narrative I've ever read. There was so much pleasure to be found in reading about two moments, told from such differing viewpoints. About actual moments in history, told from the expressive mouths of fictional characters. 

I'm not sure I'll be able to stop recommending this book.

Recommended for fans of: Historical Fiction, Cultural Fiction, Controversial Topics, LGBT content.


Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

For more info


Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Harper for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour

1 comment:

  1. I know a book must be great when I want to discuss the themes before I've even read the book. :) I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour!


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