A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.
For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife, Black Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Among the bohemians, the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems that he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.
One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.
James MacManus's Black Venus re-creates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.
PARTICULARS OF THE BOOK :
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: James MacManus
Find out more on his website: James MacManus
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
THE BOOKISH DAME REVIEWS :
This is one of those books I was dying to love. Baudelaire is my favorite French poet. I adore his poems, his intensity, his ardent way of expressing life and love. I was hoping for so much in this story of his muse, Jeanne Duval. Sadly, it was only a lukewarm representation of what must have been a very hot obsession. I was disappointed from the get-go.
While details of their lives, surroundings and relationship were set within the novel at the correct times and places, it was such that I felt I was reading a text book that had been "fancied up;" or made more palatable with warm icing. The book lacked heart and real substance. It felt flat. The characters were not well-defined or alive. While I wanted to care about them, I found I couldn't. They were without life and too devoid of definition to become captivating. Both Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval were not at all as charming as one would hope.
The surroundings and descriptive details that might have made Paris come alive were weak. There was very little atmosphere. I never really got a sense of place although the characters went to some exotic locations that would have been fun to have experienced vicariously! It felt as if the author was so stuck in detailing the history, he lacked imagination.
As far as a historical perspective of Baudelaire and his beautiful, irreverent muse Jeanne Duval goes, this is a book that did answer some questions about their relationship and what drove his genius and madness. It was a book that filled in the gaps on what their lives might have been like and how society might have reacted to them as a couple. The research seemed strong, in essence.
What disappointed was that it was not a captivating work of historical fiction. It did not flow in story form. There was a lack of description on all counts. The characters, as I've said, were virtually one dimensional. Dialog was stilted. And, the book on whole was not compelling or exciting.
Beautiful cover, fantastic idea...but no follow through on this one. A missed opportunity... I'm sad.
3 stars for a fair story Deborah/TheBookishDame