|Pages/Publication Date:||568 / 2016|
(A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and an Indie Next Pick) Following his Whiting Awardwinning debut novel Edinburgh, Alexander Chee here takes us back to gaslit Paris. Lilliet Berne has left behind her life on the American frontier to become a sensation in the Paris Opera; all that awaits her is an original soprano role to secure her immortality. When she is offered such a part however, Lilliet discovers that the libretto is based on her own hidden past, with secrets that only four people could have known: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her, and one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. Chee traces Lilliet's transformation from circus rider to courtesan to legendary soprano in an operatic novel that includes such real-life figures as George Sand and the Empress Eugénie de Montijo.
"Life as opera: the intrigues and passions of a star soprano in 19th-century Paris.... Richly researched, ornately plotted, this story demands, and repays, close attention."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Chee's lush and sweeping second novel uses a strikingly different setting from Edinburgh, his accomplished debut, but shares its musical themes and boldness.... Chee's voice, at once dreamy and dramatic, never falters; Lilliet's cycle of reinventions is a moving meditation on the transformative power of fate, art, time, and sheer survival."—Publishers Weekly
"With a hint of the charm of Victorian erotica, a marvelously involute plot and a whiff of the circus in the American grain ... Chee has leaped to another scale altogether.... Here, that voice, a rare instance of a fairy-tale first person, is at once fabulous in its simplicity and intimate in its specificity, making the story seem historical, mythic and at the same time deeply personal."—LATimes