Our newest blog book is Alexander Chee’s monumental Queen of the Night. Publisher’s Weekly called it “dreamy and dramatic”. US Weekly said it “enchants”. The Atlantic called it “epic”. These are just a few of the oceans of praise for Alexander Chee’s newest book, an operatic novel, about well, opera. And as in the style of opera with its sweeping technicolor moments of tragedy and comedy, the book demands that we suspend our disbelief as we immerse ourselves in unusual characters, and some dramatic and often outlandish plot twists.
The curtain rises on our story in Paris in 1882 with our heroine, famous soprano, Lilliet Berne, arriving at the Senate Ball. She is approached there by a mysterious stranger who wants her (with her extraordinary “falcon” style voice) to originate the leading role in his new opera… the chance of a lifetime that any singer would embrace. But Lilliet discovers, to her dismay, that this libretto is based on her own life, a life that she has gone to great lengths to conceal. In fact, only four people know her true story, one who is dead, one who loves her, one who wants to control her, and one whom she hopes will never think of her again. And so Lilliet embarks on a search for her betrayer.
The plot weaves back and forth between Lilliet’s past and present. Like any good opera this framework serves to highlight Lilliet’s more fantastic comings and goings. It chronicles her early years as a Midwestern farm girl who flees to Europe and becomes an equestrienne with a traveling circus. And that is just one of her careers. During the course of the book she also works as a high-end prostitute, a seamstress, a maid and an acrobat as well as an opera singer. She survives a war, and escapes criminals. The glittering setting of second-empire Paris also features well known historical figures such as Verdi, George Sand, Chopin and Tugenev all making cameos in Lilliet’s event filled life.
Grown up fairy tale or historical novel? We’ll touch on those topics and more during this month’s blog. Pick up your copy of Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee at the Jericho Library circulation desk today!
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