Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 (Hardcover)
Logan's Staff Pick, June 2014: Detailing the lives and experiences of half a dozen different narrators, Francine Prose’s new book offers a dazzling glimpse into the disorienting years of Paris before and during the German Occupation. The novel centers around Lou Villars, the aspiring athlete turned famed auto racer turned Nazi spy. We learn the details of Lou’s rise and fall through a plethora of disparate voices: photographers, expats, biographers, teachers, and several more. A meditation on the nature of evil, art, sex, and truth itself, Lovers is a dark and addicting read. Once you immerse yourself it’s not easy to crawl back out. — From Logan's Staff Picks
May 2014 Indie Next List
“I, like so many others, have wondered about the famous Brassai photograph of two women sitting together at a table in Paris. By constructing a novel from their pose, Prose manages to give us truths that go deep into the souls of the characters. The fictional Lou Villars is based on the tuxedo-wearing woman in the photograph, a famous athlete, racecar driver, and Nazi collaborator. She and her lover, Arlette, are well known at the Chameleon Club, where people who usually have to pretend to be something else are able to let down their guard. In the hands of Prose, the intricate threads of the people, the times, and the question of what constitutes good and evil are woven into an unforgettable tapestry. I was mesmerized by this magnificent novel.”
— Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, exploring the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself.
Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club's loyal denizens, including the rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.
As the years pass, their fortunes--and the world itself--evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis--sparked by tumultuous events--that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more.