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Black Venus [Hardcover]

James MacManus
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 May 2013
'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

'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

In nineteenth century Paris, the young bohemian Charles Baudelaire roams the streets. Dressed impeccably - thanks to an inheritance that is quickly vanishing - and lost in the decadences of alcohol and opium, he is about to meet one woman destined to change his life forever: the beautiful Haitian cabaret singer, Jeanne Duval.

Inspiring Baudelaire's most infamous poems - leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity - Duval becomes Baudelaire's muse, the catalyst for a legacy spanning centuries. Their volatile and passionate affair explodes through the Parisian literary scene but, as the ever-more fractious world catches up with them, the strength of their love will be tested to the end.

Unfolding among the bars and salons during revolutionary times, Black Venus is an intoxicating story of love and betrayal in which drugs, absinthe and lust prove the making, and the destruction, of a great poet.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (7 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250014239
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250014238
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,077,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James MacManus has worked in the newspaper business for 46 years.He is currently the Managing Director of the Times Literary Supplement.He began his career on The Daily Express in Manchester after leaving St Andrews University.He worked in the Express regional offices in Newcastle,Belfast and Dublin before leaving to join the Guardian in London in 1972.He became Paris correspondent of that paper in 1974 then Africa and Middle East correspondent between the years of 1974-1985.He did not begin writing creatively until became MD of the TLS in 1998.His first book,Ocean Devil, told the story of a young Englishman who was caught up in the Sino-Japanese war of 1936-45.George Hogg was an Oxford graduate who worked as a journalist and then schoolmaster during the ferocious conflict.He became a hero in China having led a school of ninety children to safety from the advancing Japanese in the bitter winter of 1944.Ocean devil; was made into a film directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Jonathan Rhys Meyer. MacManus' debut novel On the Broken Shore was published by Harper Collins in April 2010 and launched in the US with the title the Language of the Sea in 2013.

Product Description


Beautifully capturing bohemian Paris in the late nineteenth century MacManus creates a gritty and engrossing world in this beautifully crafted narrative, which will leave readers swooning and reaching for their favourite recording of La Bohème --Booklist

A captivating novel that shed light on more than just what we already knew on Baudelaire James MacManus brought forth a side of Jeanne [Duval] that was easier to understand and even have compassion for. Black Venus is an exquisite read --Examiner

A captivating novel that shed light on more than just what we already knew on Baudelaire James MacManus brought forth a side of Jeanne [Duval] that was easier to understand and even have compassion for. Black Venus is an exquisite read --Examiner --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

James MacManus is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. After studying at St Andrews University, he began his career in journalism at the Daily Express in Manchester. Joining the Guardian in 1972, he later became Paris and then Africa and Middle East correspondent. His debut novel, On the Broken Shore, was published in 2010, and his acclaimed book, Ocean Devil, about the life of the adventurer George Hogg, was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He lives in London. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly captivating novel. 18 Feb 2014
By Charlie
Black Venus is a fictional account of the complex relationship between French poet Charles Baudelaire and his muse Jeanne Duval, who was the source of inspiration for Le Fleurs Du Mal and also the source of much pain and grief for the poet. The real strength of this book lies not just in its characterisation of Baudelaire and Duval, but in the re-creation of the classic Parisian literary world, which he captures beautifully. Although I think more could have been done to build the relationship between Baudelaire and Duval, it is clear from the outset the passion MacManus has for them in the richness and depth he gives to their characters. Duval, who is so often condemned in literary criticism, is presented as more complex than the `whore', `drunk' stereotypes she is often assigned. The exploration of Baudelaire's relationship with his mother was, in some ways, just as interesting to read about too. This is more than just a love story, but an exploration of Baudelaire's struggles and his artistic journey towards the publication of Les Fleurs Du Mal. A truly captivating novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect book club read 3 Mar 2014
By Katy
Format:Kindle Edition
As a fan of the work of Charles Baudelaire, I decided to give this book a try, but I think the book would make for interesting reading to those who may not have read his work too. The author’s descriptions of literary Paris are both vivid and beautiful and transport the reader back to a world of sheer decadence, and intoxication. Having read up on the story of Baudelaire and Duval, I found the author’s approach to his muse very fascinating as she is so often neglected and dismissed in criticism. The book would have benefited from more scenes between the two lovers in order to demonstrate the passionate and obsessive love he felt for her, but overall the author has written an engrossing book about two very important characters. I have requested we read it at my book club next and can’t wait to hear others thoughts on the story from the perspective on those who knew very little about Baudelaire and his tragic life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing look at 19th century France. 25 Mar 2014
By Petal
Format:Kindle Edition
A fictional account of daring but impoverished poet Charles Baudelaire and his lover and muse, Jeanne Duval, Black Venus is an intriguing look at Paris of the 19th century, when ground breaking artists, writers and poets frequented cafes and nightclubs, feasting on drugs and alcohol and attempting to right the political world.

During one of his visits to a club, society gentleman Baudelaire meets captivating singer Duval and they embark upon an unlikely and stormy relationship that lasts for many years. She becomes the inspiration for his daring new works of poetry that are like nothing else of the time, and end up being banned from print, leaving Baudelaire and his publisher broke.

Knowing nothing of either character before 'Black Venus', I was enticed to read further about their lives, a really good sign that I've taken a book to heart. I enjoyed the portrayal of their rocky relationship, and the descriptive backdrop of France. I didn't quite 'feel' the passion that kept Baudelaire and Duval together during the difficult times though, especially as Duval appeared very capable of surviving on her own, and would have appreciated more indepth writing about the hold they had over each other.

A very interesting book though, one I would be happy to recommend.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
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