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Boty FinalistsThe 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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  • 35% Love
  • 34% Like
  • 21% Dislike
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