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.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Black Venus: A Novel Hardcover – May 7, 2013
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
*Starred Review* Beautifully capturing bohemian Paris in the late nineteenth century, Black Venus follows the rise and fall of the poet and translator Charles Baudelaire and his tempestuous relationship with his Haitian mistress, Jeanne Duval. The gritty streets of Paris’ Left Bank, the opulent life of aristocrats, and the dingy cabaret clubs combine to provide a rich backdrop to the love-hate story that unfolds between Baudelaire and Duval. Muse of many Parisian artists, Duval sits for paintings by Manet and inspires some of Baudelaire’s finest erotic poems, becoming one of the most mysterious beauties of her time. Meanwhile, Baudelaire seeks to defend his famous collection of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal, against public charges of obscenity while at the same time sinking into an opium- and alcohol-induced depression. MacManus, managing director of the Times Literary Supplement, creates a gritty and engrossing world in this beautifully crafted narrative, which will leave readers swooning—and reaching for their favorite recording of La Bohème. --Heather Paulson
“Beautifully capturing bohemian Paris in the late nineteenth century, Black Venus follows the rise and fall of the poet and translator Charles Baudelaire and his tempestuous relationship with his Haitian mistress, Jeanne Duval. … MacManus, managing director of the Times Literary Supplement, creates a gritty and engrossing world in this beautifully crafted narrative, which will leave readers swooning--and reaching for their favorite recording of La Bohème.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Historical romance fans with an interest in Baudelaire or a penchant for 19th-century Paris will enjoy this novel.” ―Library Journal
“Through the clear narrative, readers are presented with a portrait of a complex relationship that grew within the decadent world of Parisian artists, poets and performers.” ―RT Book Reviews
“Very engaging and evocative of the Decadent Movement of Paris in the late 19th century, … I would recommend this book to any who are interested in Baudelaire, his poetry, reclaimed women's history, or late 19th-century Paris.” ―Historical Novels Review
“This was a captivating novel that shed light on more than just what we already knew on Baudelaire. But what I appreciated most was this new portrayal of history's much maligned Jeanne Duval. James MacManus brought forth a side of Jeanne that was easier to understand and even have compassion for. Black Venus is an exquisite read.” ―The Examiner
“Captures the avant-garde scene of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century…. MacManus skillfully recreates Baudelaire's world with verve and imagination and renders a believable fictional interpretation of two very tempestuous personalities and their motives.” ―The Hudson Review
“A beautiful and gripping novel. A world that will entice you in and keep you reading until the end.” ―Kate Williams, author of The Pleasures of Men
“A wonderful book.” ―Imogen Robertson, author of The Paris Winter
“An engrossing, moving portrait of doomed love and genius.” ―The Sunday Times (UK)
“A vivid portrait of Paris during a turbulent period in its history, as well as an insightful exploration of the often self-destructive nature of genius.” ―Daily Mail (UK)
“Blending mystical fantasy with contemporary science, MacManus weaves an otherworldly tale of one man's frenzied search for identity and fantastic quest for survival.” ―Booklist on The Language of the Sea
“This is one of those rare things, a passionate book, written with feeling. Gripping drama plus well-drawn characters and a wonderfully absorbing and moving read.” ―Daily Mail (UK) on The Language of the Sea
Top customer reviews
And then in an obscure cabaret, he met the woman who would become his obsession, an alluring Creole woman from Haiti named Jeanne Duval. He dubbed her his Black Venus. She captivated him in every way and he wanted to possess her at all costs. She inspired his poetry - graphically sexual, explicit, and descriptive. She used Charles as a means to raise her own status in life. Jeanne even made clothing purchases at elite shops and charged them to Charles' mother. Jeanne took everything she could from the relationship that was tumultuous and lasted for decades.
The novel truly takes the reader in the 19th century France, the fear of the revolution, the artists, the cafes. The poems Duval inspired were published, but due to their sexuality, were banned by the government, bankrupting his publisher and rendering Charles a very poor man indeed. Edward Manet befriends Charles and soon Manet paints Jeanne. Unlike Charles, however, his work brought Manet fame and wealth, and increased Duval's fame.
Black Venus is a poignant novel, heart-breaking and forlorn, almost a tragedy. It is a tale of betrayal, jealousy, obsession, and forbidden love. A magnetic story to say the least!
Auguste Poulet-Malassis, heir to one of the oldest publishing businesses in France, is searching for a writer – “playwright, poet, or novelist, it didn’t matter” – who could help his firm return to its former commercial success and status.
Duval becomes Baudelaire’s muse, his inspiration, and so begins a volatile and passionate affair. Baudelaire’s attachment to his London-born mother, Caroline, is strong and almost unbreakable – until his father Francois dies and she marries Jacques Aupick. Caroline Aupick thinks her son’s romantic interest is a whore and a peasant.
By 1848 revolutionary fever grips Paris. Whereas Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers) stages a successful play, Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge, extolling the triumphant nationalism of the Revolution, Baudelaire declares his art is his revolution. But he would go on to play a greater part in the Revolution than anyone ever imagined.
Baudelaire’s mother stage-manages his meeting with the intelligent and beautiful Apollonie Sabatier, whom he showers with his poetry. Baudelaire “could never have written those poems to his snow-white … milkmaid by the sea if it had not been for his Black Venus.”
On June 25, 1857, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) is published. It is nine years since Poulet-Malassis had met Baudelaire, seven years since Poulet-Malassis had seen Baudelaire’s poems, and seven years to “get a sllim volume into the bookshops.” It was dispatched to Englan, throughout Europe and the United States. Tennyson, Browning, and Wordsworth received copies accompanied by a hand-written note from Baudelaire – in English. Longfellow and Victor Hugo also received copies. Baudelaire cried when he read Hugo’s response. “Finally someone understands me,” he told his friends, “and not just anyone – the great Victor Hugo.” But his work was condemned as “an obscene monstrosity” and the entire print run was confiscated. Baudelaire faced trial on the grounds of obscenity.
In August 1857 the courtroom was packed. The result of the trial affected Baudelaire, his publisher, the Black Venus, and Apollonie for years. Baudelaire writes to his mother: “I cannot write. I feel as if I have been buried alive, like one of Poe’s characters. I am dying.”
Three years later when Baudelaire writes of “death, damnation, drugs, and disease” his publisher suggests he writes of something else. Baudelaire responds: “I have written about love, and look where that got us.”
Black Venus is a work of fiction, but grounded in fact. Interesting in its account, easy to read, and with a flowing unembellished style, the novel is one for lovers of Baudelaire. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is buried at the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris. Edouard Manet’s painting of Jeanne Duval called Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining (1862) hangs in the Budapest National Gallery.
I knew little about Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval. It was a pleasure to get to know them in Black Venus. They were a seductive and intriguing couple that needed one another. Sadly they also annihilated one another. Their tempestuous relationship is at the heart of this novel.
Jeanne Duval was essential to Baudelaire's poetry. Without her there would have been no Les Fleurs du Mal. The literary significance of that work cannot be understated.
Baudelaire was charged with obscenity after Les Fleurs was published. Reading about the trial in which he was accused of creating an offense against public morals was compelling.
Certain books inspire me to learn more about the people and the settings contained therein. This was one of those books. I found myself looking up the clothes, the people, and the relationships described in Black Venus because I wanted more. That, to me, is a sign of a great book.
Black Venus is a bewitching and illuminating read that I highly recommend.
Most recent customer reviews
Charles Baudelaire is a "starving" poet in the 19th century.Read more
Living off his inheritance, Beaudelaire is an aspiring poet who lives his life high on late...Read more