HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Big news! LibraryThing is now free to all! Read the blog post and discuss the change on Talk.
dismiss
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Queen of the Night (2016)

by Alexander Chee

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7724019,978 (3.77)34
From a writer praised by Junot Da?z as "the fire, in my opinion, and the light," comes a mesmerizing novel that follows one woman's rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned diva. Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer's chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. To survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress' maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue. Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation-or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.… (more)

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
This book is beautifully written and fantastically entertaining. I've only seen light-opera productions, but I feel like I've actually been living inside an epic opera during these 500 + pages. The protagonist, Lilliet Berne, leads a tragic yet magical life. Her struggle to find true love is thwarted only by her own efforts to escape her present circumstances. She is always running from one thing to another, seeking love, yet terrified of being controlled. Her final effort to end the man she belongs to (literally) by murdering the Tenor was a shock, but even this horrible act doesn't get her what she truly wants. I believe the end was perfect, as it brings Lilliet full circle and back to her roots. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be taken on a journey through Europe on the wings of a Falcon opera singer. ( )
  PaulaGalvan | Jun 30, 2020 |
An ever-changing identity is the centerpiece of Alexander Chee's The Queen of the Night. We're introduced to Lilliet Berne at the height of her fame as an operatic soprano in Paris in the 1870s. She's approached by a man who says he can give her the one honor that she hasn't attained so far: a role she can originate. The only snag is that the new opera is based on a novel that's clearly based on her own past, a past she thought she'd managed to escape from. There are only a handful of people who know her real life, and she determines to find out which one of them has betrayed her.

The book is a recounting of the story of her life, with one incredible circumstance leading directly into another: she grows up in frontier America and sets out to get to Switzerland, where she has relatives, once her entire family dies. In order to make it overseas, she joins a circus, from which she escapes to become a hippodrome rider, and then becomes a prostitute, and then a handmaid to the Empress of France, and finally an opera singer in training. She becomes an figure of obsession to a professional tenor and he dogs her steps, determined to possess her entirely, even while she tries to elude him and falls in love with another man. She does eventually find out who is behind the mysterious new opera and it seems for a while that she might even get a happy ending...but this is a story about opera, and operas don't usually have one of those.

If you read that plot outline and thought it sounds insane, you're right. IT'S BONKERS. But it's really good! I tend to be irritated by plots that require too many convenient contrivances, but with this book it's best to put logic aside and just enjoy the ride, because it is a fantastic, soapy trip that Chee takes us on. It's a bit on the long side, but it doesn't get bogged down anywhere...you might think that with the list of twists and turns that Lilliet's life takes, that it would feel cluttered or get hard to keep track of what was going on, but Chee is in control of his story and characters, and creates a vivid, lively world that was hard to tear myself away from.

This is one of those books that I kept promising myself I would stop at the end of the chapter to go to sleep, and was hard pressed to resist just one more after that before turning out the light. My one quibble would be that in a book full of evocative characters, Lilliet herself is a bit of a cipher. But, given the many shifts in her circumstances and role she is meant to play, too big of a personality wouldn't feel quite right either. Her most defining feature is her determination to survive...no matter what comes around the bend, she always manages to figure out a way to adapt and keep going. That's a powerful statement in and of itself. Overall, though, this is a very enjoyable read and I would heartily recommend it! ( )
  GabbyHM | Jun 24, 2020 |
After finishing this overly long, and tedious audiobook, I went to amazon.com to see if anyone else in the reviews felt the same way I do, about this novel by the author Chee. I found this review, which sums up my feelings PERFECTLY. It LITERALLY says everything I want to say. So to give credit where credit is due, here it is, in its entirety:

"By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on January 29, 2016
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book weighs in at 552 pages and is densely packed with incident. It follows the career of Lilliet Berne, who when we meet her is an adored diva, a so-called "Falcon soprano" with a very distinctive, very sensitive voice who is the toast of Paris in the 1870s. We quickly become aware that there are dark mysteries in her past, which may be exposed. Someone has written a book about a person very like her and wants it set to music and for her to play herself. Lilliet is thrown into panic. She does not want her past exposed and had believed it was well covered up, but someone knows the secret. She sets out to protect herself by discovering who that person is.

Lillie's unlikely story begins as the daughter of settlers in Minnesota. When her family dies, she sets out to rejoin her only living relatives back in Europe. She makes her way to Paris where she has stints as a circus performer and then as a prostitute in the Paris of Louis Napoleon and falls into the hands of a tenor from Prussia who buys her out of her brothel and now owns her. He discovers her musical ability. The tenor, who is never named, is the dark villain of the story -- but he stands for all men in a way. Lilliet wants one thing above all -- her freedom. It is the one thing she -- and we are told all women of all time -- can never achieve.

She escapes from him, fakes her death, and shows up as a maid to the Empress Eugenie in the Tuileries Palace. But he tracks her down and reclaims her. This feels to Lilliet like death. She fights and fights against her fate, struggles for freedom -- and ultimately discovers that no-one is actually free. The tenor is controlled by another more powerful hand and her true love is also bought and owned.

This heavy-handed message is drummed into the reader again and again. At the very end of the novel, the author states his theme: "In this world, some time long ago, women as a kind had done something so terrible, so awful, so fantastically cruel that they and their daughters and their daughters' daughters were forever beyond forgiveness until the end of time -- unforgiven, distrusted, enslaved, made to suffer for the least offenses committed against any man. What was remembered were the terms of our survival as a class. We were to be docile, beautiful, uncomplaining, pure, and failing that, at least useful. In return, we might be allowed something like a long life. But if we were not any of these things, by a man's reckoning, or if perchance we violated their sense of this pact, we would have no protection whatsoever and were to be treated worse than any wild dog or lame horse..."

This book is steeped in opera. At first, the plot of Il Trovatore seems to be the main metaphor -- the story of a women in love with one man but under the power of another. Lillie loves a composer but he himself is in thrall to more powerful forces and she is still owned by the nefarious German tenor who really claims to love her -- but not enough to give her freedom. Then, as the title suggest, Mozart's Magic Flute takes over. The author gives a long explanation of the fairly incomprehensible plot of that opera which has fantastic music but a lame story. The Queen of the Night's famous aria, "Hell's Vengeance Boils in my Heart" is slightly out of Lilliet's voice's range and singing it could ruin her voice. Yet, she does so, just once.

There are many historical figures who appear in this book -- the composers Verdi, Bizet and Brahms, the great Russian novelist Turgenev, George Sand and the Empress Eugenie. None are brought to life at all. They remain just names. At the end of the book, Lilliet sings Carmen and that too becomes a metaphor for her fate.

The failure to create convincing, three-dimensional characters is actually the main problem with the novel and the reason I give it only three stars. Others may disagree but I did not find that any of the characters seemed real. We're told about Lilliet's love for her composer but we don't feel it. We're told of her suffering but we don't feel that either. The description of the siege of Paris during the war of 1870, when the people were starving, eating zoo animals and tree bark to survive, falls woefully short. The fall of the Paris commune the following year -- which was a shocking bloodbath -- becomes another ho-hum event in this book.

I felt by the end of the book that I had read an incredibly long political manifesto dressed up as a novel. The author has Lilliet tell us that nobody who ever had her life in her hands had yet tired of it -- except her. Well add me to the list. I tired of it."


**I must add that while the narrator of this novel was brilliant in her French pronunciations, as well as Italian and German, and also the phrases for the different operatic styles, voices, and music, she was barely able to keep this novel from seeming endless in its weighty descriptions. Lisa Flanagan, I hope you get to narrate a much better novel, next time. You were superb. This novel was not.
Also, I had to check out this audiobook twice, with a month-long wait period in between, in order to get through it. I could only,listen to so much of it, each day, before I had to bail. I hate that...... 3 stars. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
Honestly, March was a crap reading month for me. The pandemic panic found my work hours doing, and me more than a little exhausted.

I did, however, manage to read this bit of fantasticness. It is, certainly, on the problematic side for me. Lilliet has nearly no agency, no ability to to anything but careen from one disaster to the next. Her "great love" is....suspicious at best. Her "friendships" are clearly only of convenience.

And yet. This novel about the opera was, truly, an opera itself. Full of all the drama - OH THE DRAMA - and betrayal and infidelity and magic. Can you think in your mind what it would be like if The Phantom of the Opera had a part two, staring the magnificent, malevolent Carlotta? This is not that....but it's pretty darn close. Even as it frustrated me, it delighted me.

It felt like just the right sort of book to be reading in the surreal days that were the last month of my life. Would I recommend it? Maybe not. Would I read it again? Absolutely. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Apr 11, 2020 |
If you want to enjoy this, treat it as a tribute to opera. Then you can sit back and enjoy the costume changes and melodrama :-) ( )
  LubicaP | Mar 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
This novel is for D.S., who likes to write his initials in his books.
First words
When it began, it began as an opera would begin, in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger who, you discover, has your fate in his hands.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. 
 
As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.77)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 11
2.5 4
3 26
3.5 9
4 57
4.5 3
5 30

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 147,916,836 books! | Top bar: Always visible