The Queen of the Night

By Alexander Chee,

Book cover of The Queen of the Night

Book description

Recommended by The Observer . . .

'One doesn't so much read it, as one is bewitched by it. Epic, gorgeous, haunting' HANYA YANAGIHARA, author of A Little Life

When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Queen of the Night as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

To portray the title character in Bizet’s Carmen is only one of the many transformations American orphan Lilliet Berne’s life requires, both on and offstage, as she ascends to opera stardom in late 19th century Paris. In this immersive novel, the clothes are as richly described as the music, and the music is described with not only sincere emotion but attention to realities and absurdities: Bizet’s early death leads to greatly improved ticket sales, for example. In Chee’s haunting first novel Edinburgh, he made choral music shimmer with both beauty and horror. The Queen of the Night is very…

From Caitlin's list on featuring classical music.

I love this novel about a 19th-century French opera singer so much because Alexander Chee is having so much fun. It’s got a traveling circus. It’s got mysterious operatic composers. Betrayal. Romance. Several wars. Acrobatics on horseback. So much money. A daring escape in a hot-air balloon. I think of The Queen of the Night as the Grey’s Anatomy of the historical fiction world. Is it melodramatic? Absolutely. But this book knows it’s over the top, and it’s winking at you about it the whole way. Don’t worry about family trees or detailed maps in this book—just buckle…

This novel is pure guilty pleasure, telling the captivating tale of Lilliet Berne, one of Europe’s most sought-after prima donnas. Although Berne herself is fictional, her adventures and the mystery she attempts to solve bring her into contact with a number of historical figures like Giuseppe and Giuseppina Verdi, Cora Pearl, and Pauline Viardot. I love this book for its deft combination of real and imaginary, layering a story of lust, love, and murder over a meticulously researched education in the realities of nineteenth-century theatrical life.

From Hilary's list on nineteenth-century divas.

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