Book Review: The Queen of the Night By Alexander Chee

Synopsis

From a writer praised by Junot Díaz as ‘the fire, in my opinion, and the light’, a mesmerizing novel that follows one woman’s rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned star Paris, 1882. Lilliet Berne is a sensation, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her still, one wants only to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As Lilliet mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from circus rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to stage ingénue,all the while weaving a web of passion and intrigue. Will the truth secure Lillet’s fate – or destroy her with the secrets it reveals? Fifteen years in the writing, The Queen of the Night is a literary tour de force that is also ferociously readable. A blazing tale of lust, ambition, betrayal and revenge, it will captivate readers right up to its final electrifying denouement. 

Publication Date: 22nd February 2018

My thoughts..

The Queen of the Night is an epic tale of death, betrayal, fortune and lust that was as engrossing as it was overwhelming. The mysterious life and rise of Lilliet Berne is intriguing, dangerous and at times tragic but most of all fascinating.

Lilliet’s life is made up of a series of fortunate and unfortunate events that makes it seem like she is not in control of her own destiny. I found this approach not only refreshing but also realistic for the time period. She deals with what life throws her way the best she can and while she is often manipulated by more powerful individuals I don’t think it detracted from her character. Lilliet has a more quiet strength and resilience about her which I found made her very likeable.

The level of detail in this book meant that I was a given a thoroughly in-depth insight into a world I knew nothing about, but it also made this book a lot denser than I found strictly necessary. For example the page long list of furs the Empress owned I just skipped right over and I got lost in the sometimes too detailed explanations of opera performances. I can however appreciate what the author was trying to do and some of the aspects of the book I struggled with I know a classical music lover would love.

I did find that I was at all times reading with a kind of remote detachment. I think this is because partly Lilliet Berne as a narrator is seemingly fairly emotionally detached from events herself. I think this was partly in a way to protect herself from the tragic events from her past but as the story is told through her eyes I found myself adopting the same stance. This book had high drama and tragedy and intrigue and betrayal but it felt like someone had turned the volume down. The story felt muffled, it was as if I was wearing a blanket and didn’t know how cold it was outside.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

4/5 stars

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