As a series of dramatic aesthetic revolutions sweep through nineteenth-century France, a dynasty of remarkable, strong-willed women struggles to redefine the conventions of morality, love, and life
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A fat, blowzy historical romance set mainly in 19th-century Paris, a veritable featherbed of drifts from past literary monuments: a gamine, a noble dwarf, a bravely suffering adulteress, etc. This three-generational roll call of hidden paternities, careers, and affairs of the heart is by the author of several psychothrillers and a more successful mystery, The Watchers (1980). Thirteen-year-old Jeanne Sorel, a ragpicker working with her wretched family on a garbage heap, is rescued by Nandou, a dwarf who teaches Jeanne to read and write, root for Victor Hugo, the Romanticists, and the Republic, and bellow at the barricades against King Louis Philippe. With Jeanne's new confidence and job in the theater (disguised as a boy), Smith's genealogical sweepstakes begin. At the post: Jeanne and wealthy Louis Vollard, who marries aristocratic Edm‚e but sires Jeanne's daughter Gabrielle (kidnapped by Louis but rescued by Nandou). At the midway point: grown-up Gabrielle stomps away from Jeanne and loving Nandou when she learns of her parentage and marries Marc, son of Edm‚e (but not Louis). At the finish: Gabrielle's daughter Simone and her search for the father she adores and her discovery of another. Eh bien. On and on--daring rescues, flights from the law, flings and strivings and coups in theater and art, a love that builds slowly, and secrets, secrets, secrets. Windy but pleasantly lulling in the telling--for the undemanding. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Smith's ( Elegy for a Soprano ; Country of the Heart ) clever, solidly based historical novel of 19th-century France follows the tangled professional/sexual fortunes of three women of the theater: Jeanne, a ragpicker's daughter who rises to become a playwright; her headstrong daughter Gabrielle, a singer; and her granddaughter Simone. Devoted to Jeanne is the actor Nandou, a noble dwarf who rescues her as a girl, educates and cherishes her, and parents her illegitimate daughter when Jeanne's well-born lover--the painter Vollard--deserts her. Vollard weds an heiress; their son Marc, abhorring his "sodomite" inclinations, forms a marriage of convenience with half-sister Gabrielle. The plot unfolds against the well-depicted political and artistic upheavals of the age, including the stormy beginnings of French romanticism with the work of Victor Hugo, who makes a cameo appearance in the novel and remains a constant presence: not only is Hugo a friend of Nandou's, but the portrayals of Nandou and Jeanne optimistically recreate Hugo's hunchback and gypsy girl of Notre Dame de Paris. Unfortunately, though Smith orients her story to lively issues--artistic boldness, feminism, homosexuality, incest, adultery (the libertine Vollard jails his wife for infidelity)--she fails to probe the psychic depths of her characters, who speak and behave like wooden puppets. Literary Guild alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Villard, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11039457835X
Book Description Villard. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 039457835X New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0869847