I don't even know how to review this one other than to say it reads like an extravagant opera, and I'm obsessed with it. Instead, I'm just going to give you the first paragraph. It'll tell you whether you'll love it or not... - John
"WHEN IT BEGAN, it began as an opera would begin, in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger who, you discover, has your fate in his hands. He is perhaps a demon or a god in disguise,offering you a chance at either the fulfillment of a dream or a trap for the soul. A comic element—the soprano arrives in the wrong dress—and it decides her fate.
The year was 1882. The palace was the Luxembourg Palace; the ball, the Sénat Bal, held at thebeginning of autumn. It was still warm, and so the garden was used as well. I was the soprano.
“This historical novel about an opera singer is as grand and theatrical as opera itself. It is the story of a legendary soprano who looks back at her past to solve a mystery, but it is also a story of an artist and the road she takes to become one. Chee attempts the seemingly impossible -- to describe a soprano voice with words -- and he succeeds brilliantly, creating a tale that is vivid, intricate, and rich. Throw in cameos by figures like Verdi and George Sand, fascinating details about royal fashions, 19th century Paris, theater, and a circus, and the result is a perfect novel.”
— Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose Books and Coffee Shop, Washington, DC
National Bestseller New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice - An Indie Next Pick A Best Book of the Year from NPR, Boston Globe, Buzzfeed, Esquire, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out, Self, Jezebel, The Portland Mercury, Electric Literature, and Entropy Magazine
"It just sounds terrific. It sounds like opera." --Joan Acocella, The New Yorker
"Sprawling, soaring, bawdy, and plotted like a fine embroidery." --Scott Simon, NPR
"Dazzling." --Wall Street Journal - "A brilliant performance." --Washington Post
A "wild opera of a novel,"* The Queen of the Night tells the mesmerizing story of Lilliet Berne, an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept into the glamour and terror of Second Empire France. She became a sensation of the Paris Opera, with every accolade but an original role--her chance at immortality. When one is offered to her, she finds the libretto is based on her deepest secret, something only four people have ever known. But who betrayed her? With "epic sweep, gorgeous language, and haunting details,"** Alexander Chee shares Lilliet's cunning transformation from circus rider to courtesan to legendary soprano, retracing the path that led to the role that could secure her reputation--or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.
"If Lilliet Berne were a man, she might have been what nineteenth-century novels would call a swashbuckler: the kind of destiny-courting, death-defying character who finds intrigue and peril (and somehow, always, a fantastic pair of pantaloons) around every corner." --Entertainment Weekly