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All booksHistorical fictionThe Queen of the Night
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Historical fiction

The Queen of the Night

by Alexander Chee

Quick take

An original role is something every opera star dreams of, but this is not a role that is new to Lilliet... There are only four people who know the truth about her secret past. And one of them has talked.

Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

Love, music, secrets, and betrayal are at the heart of this captivating novel, set in 19th-century France.

World-famous soprano of the Paris Opera, Lilliet Berne is approached at a party by a writer. He has just completed a new novel and is excited to turn it into an opera, with her as its star.

An original role is something every opera star dreams of, but this is not a role that is new to Lilliet. As the novelist describes the part he is writing for her, Lilliet realizes he is telling a story she already knows: it is the story of her life before she became famous. There are only four people who know the truth about Lilliet's secret past. And one of them has talked.

In the years before Lilliet's fame, she was an orphan who traveled from America to Europe, where she found work as a hippodrome rider, a courtesan, and even a maid to the Empress herself. In these positions, she made the acquaintances of the four people who hold her secrets.

Why has Lilliet's past resurfaced now? And who has spilled her secrets? As she seeks answers, the reader discovers, through flashbacks from Lilliet's life, her love and losses, her triumphs and setbacks. Each chapter of her past is vividly imagined and exquisitely detailed.

The Queen of the Night is one of the most seductive, richly detailed novels I've ever read. Chee does a remarkable job immersing you in the history – complete with beautifully described details of fashion and opera– as you move seamlessly through the story. (And you really do not need to have any knowledge of opera to enjoy this book.) It's a big, enchanting novel, and I'm completely under its spell. I hope you will be, too.

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Member thoughts

All (453)
All (453)
Love (186)
Like (166)
Dislike (101)
496 ratings
  • 38% Love
  • 33% Like
  • 20% Dislike
  • Roanoke, VA

    Alexander Chee takes you into the life of a Parisian opera singer in this novel. I loved walking in her steps and it felt like its own little opera. I can't wait to read more from him in the future.

  • Honolulu, HI

    A little awkward at first like bring thrown into a new world with no preparation, but once you get your feet under you this is an amazing and at times heart wrenching book that is worth the commitment

  • Yorba Linda, CA

    What a fantastic novel. This is a side of the French revolution not often told, along with a beautiful coming-of-age story and a touching romance. As artfully written and performed as an aria.

  • New fairfield, CT

    A strong woman who survived and in the process, builds a fantastical life for herself in late 19th century Europe. One day, it's not enough and she wants to do more than survive. Love this!

  • Des Moines, IA

    Can you think in your mind what it would be like if The Phantom of the Opera had a part two, staring the magnificent, malevolent Carlotta? This is not that....but it's pretty darn close.

  • Chicago, IL

    This book had me looking up locations and searching for nocturnes on Spotify. A book where you find yourself loving the main character,but also wondering why you do. Brilliantly written.

  • Paso robles, CA

    The lush and romantic descriptions of 19th century France set the stage for this epic journey of a young girl from American farm family, to circus, to prostitute, to operatic sensation.

  • Oak Park , IL

    Our main character Lilliet is magnetic, she has an object that keeps playing a large role in her life, and fate plays a large role in the plot, she uses opportunities to her advantage.

  • Oakland, CA

    This is the book that got me into historical fiction. I loved the detail and how I could put myself in mid 19th century Paris. Lilliette's intrigues were compelling and relateable.

  • Minneapolis, MN

    I love opera, and I read this book before. Getting this book through BOTM for such a cheap rate was the best. I love the writing and the plot and the setting. And the character.

  • Miami, FL

    Kind of makes you want to go back in time and live in this era of as a member of the upper class French society. The descriptions are beautiful, just like the book itself.

  • Overland Park, KS

    I loved the storyline of this book! Lilliet's life is full of twists and turns, but she is strong and handles them well. Seeing Paris in this time period was beautiful.

  • Harker Heights, TX

    The story runs at a good clip and the character building is very good. The atmosphere of the novel kept me interested. I am a sucker for historical novels!

  • Palm Coast, FL

    As an opera singer myself, I DEVOURED this book. Incredibly well written in a unusual style, you will wish your life had as much intrigue and adventure.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    A sweeping and gorgeous epic of opera, romance, secrets and sex, all involving no less than the crowns of Europe and woman whose identity no one knows.

  • Brighton , MA

    Queen of the Night, although slow at times, painted a beautiful picture in my mind and it's still with me. Alexander Chee writes with beauty and light.

  • Cleveland, NY

    It took me a bit to sink my teeth into this book, but then I was hooked. I really enjoyed the fleshed out characters and historic music references.

  • Ketchum, ID

    I love historical novels, I actually learned a lot about the time period while being entertained at the same time. The clothing detail was amazing!

  • Chicago, IL

    This was my first BOTM book and I loved it! It was interesting to read about real life people from a fictional character’s perspective.

  • Pleasant Grove, UT

    Though it started out slow, it definitely picked up. It was so interesting to learn more about opera and France during this time period!

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