Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

    • The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
    • Published February 2, 2016
    • Other book by the author: Edinburgh

    • An opera singer has a hidden past. As the book blurb says: "Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all."
    • It can be viewed as a rags-to-riches tale: young, poor girl from Minnesota travels to Europe and becomes a legendary soprano and not just a soprano but a "falcon" soprano, a rare voice type. She moves from circus to prostitution to prison to servitude, changing her name as she goes. 
    • Someone has written an opera based on her life for her to perform. Who told the composer of her life story? She flashes back telling the story piecemeal.
    • The story mostly takes place in France during the Second Empire from the 1850s through the early 1870s, when Napoleon III was emperor.

    • I liked the story and the history of the era (of which I knew nothing before) but the author is one of those writers who eschews quotation marks. This makes it frustrating to read because you need to keep figuring out which is dialogue and which is description. Ugh.
    • The information about opera is interesting but words on a page cannot explain the difference in operatic voices. I assume some explanatory videos exist on Youtube that would illustrate the different soprano voices but that's not what I want to stop and search for while I'm READING A BOOK.
    • I always enjoy reading about the details of life as a prostitute and/or a courtesan so this book satisfied that. (Like Forever Amber, The Crimson Petal and the White or Memoirs of a Geisha and those of that ilk.)