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The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole…

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.

by Carole DeSanti

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Eugenie R. was raised in the countryside of France on a farm that produces fois gras. When a handsome and titled man professes his love for her she flees to Paris on the promise that he will soon follow. When he does not show up at their meeting place Eugenie finds herself left to her own devices and quickly trapped in the underbelly of Parisian society. Through Eugenie’s eyes we witness Paris in the mid 1800’s, the artists, the bordellos, the politics and the scandals, but most importantly the treatment of women.

This book is historical fiction at its best. Despite the fact that the subject material, true to 19th century Paris, is a little tawdry and very gritty Ms. DiSanti presents the reader with a beautifully written novel. Eugenie’s movements from farm girl, to abandoned lover, to prostitute, to single mother is embellished by what is going on at the time. Everything fits nicely. I enjoyed following Eugenie’s life from “poor little me” through to a woman standing her ground.
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  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I guess I will have to give the author full credit for creating a vivid picture of Paris during the 1860s and during the Siege and Commune of 1870. The details provided have the ability to transport the reader back to an earlier era. However, I felt the description also obscured the plot to a degree. Eugenie's story seemed as much about the taste and texture of her times as it was about progressing the plot. This is clearly a tale for those who like description over plot, particularly since the ending left me wondering if the plot had ever developed at all. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Feb 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0547553099, Hardcover)

Sheri Holman Reviews The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.

Sheri Holman is the award-winning author of four novels, including The Dress Lodger, a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book; The Mammoth Cheese, shortlisted for the UK's Orange Prize; and most recently, Witches on the Road Tonight, a New York Times Book Review Editors Choice, named one of the best books of 2011 by the Boston Globe and Toronto's Globe and Mail, and awarded the Independent Publisher Book Awards’ gold medal for literary fiction.

Carole DeSanti, longtime editor of literary superstars like Dorothy Allison and Terry McMillan, has been leading a secret life. For the past ten years she's been crafting a novel of her own, and The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is as much a personal meditation on women's emotional and professional tradeoffs as it is a sweeping saga of the decadent Paris that spawned Madame Bovary.

Lured to the city by the empty promises of a ne'er-do-well nobleman, sixteen-year-old goose girl Eugénie Rigault finds herself abandoned, destitute, and, unsurprisingly, pregnant. Life with a bohemian painter brings her brief fame, but soon enough, Eugénie must choose between starvation or the illicit sorority of Les Deux Soeurs, one of Paris's notorious state-legislated tolerated houses. Over a decade marked by absinthe-soaked parties and the famine of the Franco-Prussian War, Eugénie struggles to reconcile the two parts of her divided self--"the one that observed the world but could not act; the other that moved heedlessly, lacking a sense of the world's consequence."

In DeSanti's deeply sensual novel, the foie gras melts on the tongue and the perfumes threaten, at times, to overwhelm. But her sharp eye for the hypocrisies of power dynamics elevates this novel far above the hothouse. In a meeting with the radical Communards, Eugénie finds an uneasy kinship. "To look into their eyes.... was to feel the creep of something familiar. Of deals made far above one's head, out of one's view; destiny on the chopping block." Like the painting that made her famous, Eugénie is the quintessential "Unknown Girl," at the mercy of social forces inexorable and incomprehensible, doing the best she can to get by.

While there's plenty of satisfying hetero- and homoerotic groping, don't read this fiercely intelligent novel if you simply want a good love story dressed up in period clothes. Read it for the complex sexual politics, lush language, and mirror onto our own excessive, heedless times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:23 -0400)

Love, war, and commerce converge in this lush, epic story of a woman who follows her love to Paris, only to find herself marooned, pregnant, and penniless. Set around France's Second Empire, where absinthe, prostitution, vast wealth, and cataclysmic social upheaval abound, this novel delicately explores the contrary requirements of a woman's survival--and her determination to recover the daughter she gave away.… (more)

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