Monday, June 9, 2014

Transvestites and Nazis: A Book Review

The cover of the book may be misleading, yes the majority of the story takes place in Paris and the city is one of the most important characters of the book with an extreme development over the course of the story. But the romantic sentiments one feels when seeing a photo of the iconic Eiffel Tower, which conjures ideals about the romantic city, will quickly be dashed as the reader delves into this crazy, impossible tale that is so well told.

If you read my last post on this book, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, you know that I was enjoying it. The book is a masterpiece of research and storytelling. Every sentence carries deep meaning and is filled with beautiful language that enhances the timing of the story and the mood of the characters.

All of the characters have value and well-drawn lines. There are quite a few, and the fact that Francine Prose gives each of them a distinct personality is helpful in keeping track because it can become difficult. The way the novel is written as a compilation of the characters' memoirs, biographies, letters, articles, and autobiographies is unique and fits the story. I cannot imagine the book being written as a linear tale in the way most novels are done.

The book is engrossing, despite its length, although it can drag towards the end due to the fact that all of the characters need to wrap up their own stories. You can feel the ending coming but it takes a little while. The way history—parts of history that many people might be familiar with surrounding the German occupation of France and the athletic world of 1930s Europe—it woven through the characters' narratives is artistic. I love history and know a good deal about European history but I learned an awful lot through reading this book.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 is not a book that can be put down and left for a period of time. It demands your attention and complete focus as the story is quite intricate. Nostalgia plays a great role in the lives of characters as they recall childhood, how Paris was before the occupation, and how life was before complications got in the way.  These emotive moments will please readers and offer some relief from the harsher realities that the characters face regarding war, discrimination, and loneliness.

The cast of characters, really though, is reason enough to read this book. They are all amazing people to read about and their stories are captivating. After reading this book, make sure to check out Francine Prose's other books. She writes both fiction and nonfiction so she has something for everyone!

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