Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy Used
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Crisp, attractive copy.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Belle Cora: A Novel Hardcover – January 7, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

See all 6 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
Hardcover, January 7, 2014
$4.99 $0.16

The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin
"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote's scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York's society "swans" of the 1950s. Learn more | See related books

Editorial Reviews


"A rollicking first novel that tracks an American Moll Flanders on her roller-coaster ride from respectability into quite profitable sin and back again…an enjoyable allegory for the settling of the American West, with plenty of sex and violence along the way… With vivid detail, Margulies depicts a society in which a "ruined" girl has few options… Contemporary readers will, of course, applaud Belle's spunk…We're in the hands of a professional, and a good time of a certain sort is guaranteed."

-The San Francisco Chronicle 

“Margulies strikes gold in his first novel… [his]writing never falters, and the reader will easily get lost in the world he’s built. Belle’s remarkable story mirrors that of her young country, on the verge of civil war, and her sharp, engaging voice brings her tale to vivid life.”
-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"The charm and self-invention that served Arabella throughout her life give voice to a story that will captivate historical fiction fans as they follow her exploits during a turbulent era."

- Library Journal

"Belle Cora is historical fiction with a nugget of truth at its core; the heroine is based on a real 19th century madam, and the story is sprinkled with bits of genuine primary sources. The writing is clear and precise, the characters enthralling. It has a bit of a good-girl-gone-bad narrative at the center, but it’s always more about the heroine’s determination to survive by any means than a novel that’s looking for an excuse for its characters to misbehave in a titillating fashion. Above all else, it tells a great story."

"Phillip Margulies has taken the scant known facts about Belle and created a magnificent heroine.
Although not always a sympathetic figure, her frankness about her failings and her justification for the artful actions she is often forced to take to guarantee self-preservation make her utterly compelling.
But this is far more than just one woman’s story. It is also an epic detailed exploration of the underbelly of 19th-century America, with all its vice, bigotry, political corruption and religious hypocrisy. The descriptions are rich, the characters well-fleshed, and the novel’s crowning achievement is that it doesn’t try to appease modern sensibilities and presents an honest reflection of this era. A memorable and outstanding work on many levels."
- HistoricalNovelSociety.org

Gripping, sweeping, and tragic, Belle Cora is the story of an extraordinary woman making her way through an extraordinary time.  Part love story, part scandal, part historical epic, Philip Margulies masterfully orchestrates a riveting tale, taking us from the hardboiled streets of New York City to the rich promise of California's goldmines.  At its center is a complex, daring woman, a character I won't soon forget. “
  Anton DiSclafani, New York Times bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

“The past is a foreign country. If, like me, you long to visit 19th  century New York and San Francisco, I can't imagine a better time-travel substitute than Belle Cora. This is a splendid feast of a novel.

-Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and New York Times bestselling author of Heyday  and Turn of the Century

Belle Cora is an enthralling historical drama, the story of a 19th-century Moll Flanders, told with sympathy, feeling, humor, and accuracy.  Phillip Margulies is a superb writer.”

—Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd  and Paradise Alley

“Pull away…if you can. Tuck this gorgeous, alive story of America back on your book shelf.  No, don't.  You would deprive yourself of a stunning historical saga, the kind that doesn’t come along every day. You don’t just read Belle Cora. You live it – and you won’t turn your bedside light out for a very long time.”
-Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker  and The Daring Ladies of Lowell

“Belle Cora is a wonderfully assured novel, a story to lose yourself in, by turns thrilling, witty and poignant. Phillip Margulies has given us a luminous portrayal of an unforgettable woman. You will be utterly seduced by this alluring story.”
Margaret Leroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Soldier’s Wife

About the Author

PHILLIP MARGULIES is the author and editor of many books on science, politics and history for young adults. He has won two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at Audible.com. If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at ACX.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532761
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Synopsis: Loosely based on the life of a real prostitute, Belle Cora gives the life story of a woman who started out as an orphan, becomes a well sought out prostitute to her life as a richest and respected Dowagers of San Francisco.

My rating: My first 10/5 stars for 2014.

My opinion: Good freakin' lord THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME!

If I had ANY faith in Hollywood not to screw it up, this would be a great book made into a movie-even if it was only a Lifetime movie. Alas I don't, so please don't touch it! Also, a complaint...I don't know what numbnut is calling this a chicklit book, so please don't insult it that way.

This book was incredibly well written, engrossing and heartwarming/edge of seat intensity that masterfully doesn't beat you over the head. I know it sounds sexist, but I still can't believe that such a strong, complex female protagonist was written by a male. There were so many "lessons" to walk away from in this book.

This book was so refreshing, non-"cookie-cutter" read coming that came from the "traditional" publishing house. At first, my concern was that it was over-hyped. It wasn't!

My recommendation has been if you need to wait at the library for it...GRAB IT. It is one of those rare gems that is worth the $$$$'s. I happen to feel that it boosted my reading experience by the feel of the paper. I have put the print copy of this book into my Amazon cart because it will be one of those very rare books that I read multiple times. Don't feel like grabbing the print version, it was fine on my ereader.

Source: Doubleday for review

Would I recommend? : Haell yes! Plus, every person I have recommended it to has given it no less than 4 stars.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone
1 Comment 15 of 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Prostitutes! Gun Fights! Vigilantes! Unitarians! This book has pretty much everything. It tells the story of how an orphaned, but well-off girl named Arabella Godwin became the notorious San Francisco Madam, Belle Cora. At over 600 pages, it might seem intimidating to some readers, but I found it enthralling and very readable.

There was a real Belle Cora in San Francisco in the mid-19th century, and she was a madam. She was the lover of a gambler named Charles Cora, who was executed by The Vigilance Committee for the murder of US Marshall William Marshall. Yet, the story of her life--before and after this infamous episode--is the creation of Margulies. It would be tempting to dip into melodrama to frame such a sensational event, but Margulies takes the high--and more believable--road. While Arabella Godwin finds herself in the world of prostitution through some very unfortunate events, her rise to the role of the highest madam in the rough and tumble young city of San Francisco is the result of very shrewd decisions on her part.

Belle is not always a likable character, and she does do some rather shocking things, but she is authentic enough for the reader to believe that this really could have been the life of Belle Cora. Nothing in her narrative is so outrageous that I would question the possibility that it might have really happened.

One thing about this book I really enjoyed was Margulies's depiction of San Francisco. Other than the airport, I haven't visited that city since I was in diapers (despite being able to drive to it from my house in one long day).
Read more ›
Comment 19 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I saw the cover for Belle Cora months ago - I believe it was with the initial buzz going around on the book blogs. I was fascinated and I can't really explain why. Every once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet and decide that I want to read some epic life story and usually I zone in on the most innocuous of things. The corset on the cover of Belle Cora, the roses on the cover of Leila Meacham's Roses, the word Eden in Steinbeck's East of Eden (I'm not comparing books, just epic journeys dealing with someone's life). Next thing you know, I'm obsessed and, in spite of knowing, usually, that the little thing I'm fixed on may not make up for the entire book, I still dive in the first chance I get.

Now, with Phillip Margulies story, thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. I was promised the tale of an epic life and I was given that. Arabella Godwin not only lives in the pages of Belle Cora, but she leaps off them quite often. She is larger than life, but she had to be - considering the life she led in the story. And, as Belle Cora was loosely based on some real historical figures, well... as you can imagine, I was caught up in the story fairly quickly.

As all of these stories go, there's usually heartbreak of some sort. From Arabella's riches to rags story through her years as a self-supporting woman until the end...when her family is left instructions that will allow her story to be finally free, I was caught. I loved Arabella's strength, and her ability to make some really tough choices. I grieved for the things that life threw her way and caused her to be put in that place, of course, but I love seeing a woman rise above it all and make something of her life.
Read more ›
Comment 8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews