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The Lady of the Camellias (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 29 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014310702X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143107026
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


One of the greatest love stories of the world (Henry James)

About the Author

Alexandre Dumas "fils" (1824 1895) wasthe son of thefamous novelist Alexandre Dumas. He published many novels, and after the success of the dramatic version of "The Lady of the Camellias, "he became equally prolific as a playwright. Liesl Schillinger is a journalist and literary critic who writes regularly for the" New York Times Book Review" and spent many years on the editorial staff of the" New Yorker." She lives in New York.Julie Kavanagh is an award-winning biographer whose latest book is about the courtesan Marie Duplessis, who inspired "The Lady of the Camellias." She has been London editor of both "Vanity Fair "and the "New Yorker." She lives in London."

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 24 Mar. 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Listening to the highlights of La Traviata (Verdi) recently, I looked up what the story of the opera was about. Learning that it was based on this book, I looked out the book to read.

This story, written by the son of the more well-known Alexandre Dumas, is one that was fairly shocking in the time of its publication (1848), when to write about, and apparently even to extol the virtues of a courtesan was highly scandalous. Nevertheless, the story is one that the narrator feels needs to be told; the tale of how a woman in the circumstances in which Marguerite Gautier lived her life could yet hold the higher emotions and values which we associate with people not living a `decadent' lifestyle. Perhaps the moral of the story still holds true today, even though society does not pretend to be so scandalised by loose morals or unethical behaviour.

The story is evident from the start of the book; how the story is told is the key to our feeling empathy for the characters involved. The writing style, though the story is of such dark deeds, is refreshing in its naivety. This is a story that rewards the reader; for the story itself, and for the way in which it is told. I'm really glad I found it, and glad that I read it. Highly recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. W. G. Fawkes on 9 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was so nice to read this great book. I love it. It links with so many operas and ballets.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 51 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
la dame aux camellias 20 Feb. 2003
By A. Sebastian Catala - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Near the end, when she was coughing blood and had a fever, Marie Duplessis sat in her usual box at the Varietes for the last time, said a Paris columnist, like something beautiful, he reported later, something white and spectral. For the last time the imagined Marguerite Gautier had dragged her white face and camellias to the opera. After Alphonsine was buried in Montmartre, there took place the famous sale auction of her many possesions, furniture, hangings, dresses, objects d'art bibelots and bijoutterie. Literature is not a trusty reproduction of reality and like in most roman-a-clef the original yarn is more vivid and interesting than the fabricated version concocted by an author. This is no exception. Before Verdi's Violetta and Dumas young's Marguerite, there lived briefly and died a mislead soul of such unusual qualities, she was destined to cast a tall artistic shadow. "La dame aux camellias" are the novel (1848) and play (1852) by the son of Alexander Dumas, France's literary lion. The young Dumas, while growing, somewhat dissolute, was one of the many lovers of the fascinating courtesan who was Paris' arbiter of elegance, perennial in the gazettes, carrying camellias, always. An exquisitely enchanting maiden, who rented her love, thus making and spending millions. Duplessis was notorious for her extravagance, and, conveniently, the spell she cast on rich men. She was a fixture at theaters and gaming houses. A madly desired Marie Duplessis could never have imagined she would one day be the muse of Sarah Bernhardt Pola Negri, Eleonora Duse and Greta Garbo. 'La dame aux camellias" the novel and play both became success-de-scandale, both finding an instant and feverish acclaim. This old Romantic novel is based on the true story of Alphonsine Plessis, an abnormally pretty farmer, who abused by her brutal father, runs off to Paris and becomes a grisette. It's believed Plessis began selling his daughter at the age of twelve. There, in Paris, quite effortlessly, she becomes a ravishing courtesan, a swan, before dying of consumption at the age of 23. In the real biography Marie Duplessis (in her climb Alphonsine changed her name) is always juggling lovers (and debts) some, more fabulously wealthy than others. She also finds time for handsome and brilliant young men of fashion, despite their monetary limitation, and soon we learn she gives up Dumas for Frans Liszt (can you imagine the cinematic possibilities here?) Later, as the shadow of death grew near, Duplessis marries a faithful titled paramour, becoming a countess thus adding coronets to her plate. Now in the outs with Liszt (trust me, I can't go into everything but the life of the real heroine is very interesting)and while young Dumas (the original Armand Duval) travels with his father (in reality having perhaps forgotten Plessis, or Duplessis, Gautier or Valery, it's a bit confusing) the lady of the camellias dies alone of tuberculosis, in her dismantling, erstwhile courtly apartment. In this sad note ends the story of Alphonsine, also Verdi's opera, Garbo's movie and Dumas young's novel and play. The novel, a sometimes mistreated literary treasure that has seen print since the days of Louis Napoleon. Some dismiss it, some find it a bridge between the Romantics and the new realism of Flaubert. A curiously intimate young love account ending in a heart-crushing pathos. My regret is not seeing Duse or Eva LeGallienne in the role. See, I think this story would make a great modern movie. Unless you cry at dog-fights and are innately sentimental, don't pick up this book. If you like it, go on to read Abbe Provost's 'Manon Lescaut'. I could have never imagined I would one day get to grade 'La dame aux camellias', but here it is, you guessed it, I give it five stars.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
19th Century Classic, Tragic Romance--very fast reading !! 5 Sept. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the story of a beautiful, headstrong, and emotionally detached courtesan Marguerite Gautier who seems to live her life for the moment and her tragic love with Armand Duval. The main plot of the story is that their love can really never be allowed because of society's strict standards. Kind of in the themes of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This book was written by the famous Alexander Dumas's son, so the style of writing is very different. In the film version, Greta Garbo plays Marguerite in the movie, and plays her beautifully. This is one of the classics that everyone should really read, several classic novels and movies take their inspiration and ideas from Camille. The imagery is really pretty outstanding and several scenes stand out vividly in my memory even after several months. My favorite scenes are when Armand Duval and Marguerite meet for the first time in an operahouse,it's entertaining to see 19th Century social conventions-- and to peer into its darker underside. I think the novel is a little lacking in originality, but is made up by the beauty of the charactars and the depth of the love. It runs in the strain of Romeo and Juliette, very very quickly. The book can probably be read in a day or two without any effort. A classic.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Among The Better Selections In The Field Of 'Minor Classics' 23 Nov. 2005
By Dai-keag-ity - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Camille is that rarest of all literary creations: a readable, enjoyable classic. This novel tells a good story about the sometimes tragic and scandalous and sometimes joyous life and fortunes of one Marguerite Gautier, a Parisian courtesan, and her lover Armand. The pace in this book doesn't drag, isn't too long, and rises well to the exact conclusion a reader anticipates. This is a frank, even sexually bold sort of novel for its period, and demonstrates again that the nineteenth-century French were willing to delve into subject areas their English counterparts were not. The avenues the romantic entanglements in Camille take combine with other elements to give this tale a more modern feel than most novels of two centuries ago. It's not great literature (in fact it's barely above a well-written romance novel) but it's definitely not bad reading material, either. Three and a half stars is what I'd plant on this work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Redemption Through Love 28 July 2010
By Gale Finlayson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Dumas' novel of passion, sacrifice and expiation provides typical 19th century French fare--a work which inspired Hollywood to produce classic B/W film versions. Here we have corrupt Paris at its most seductive, patronized by all levels, but formally scorned by High Society. Dumas presents the world of Courtesans--beautiful young women who survive by their wits and charms, "kept" in luxury by a succession of rich lovers. How do such women exist financially once their bloom has faded? Ah, consider the case of Mme Prudence Duvernoy. Many innocent young men have been lead astray and been ruined by gambling in order to procure their latest mistresses the required carriages, servants, gowns, jewels, and furniture. But CAMILLE (not her first name)proves more than a mere cautionary novel.

Readers will meet two narrators, plus the letters from Marguerite Gautier herself and a young friend named Julie. This was an age when young men wept openly and threw themselves into headlong passions--when caution and familial obligations rarely bowed to common sense.

At an estate auction the first narrator purchased a copy of MANON LESCAUT, autographed to Marguerite from her ardent lover, Armand Duval. When the wretched fellow seeks out and introduces himself to the compassionate purchaser, the two young men become friends. Ultimately it is Armand, returned too late for her funeral, who takes up the thread of the 2nd narration--willingly providing all the painful, shameful details of his liaison with the lovely courtesan who was dying of consumption--and a broken heart.

The title of CAMILLE refers to her floral penchant for wearing or appearing only with white camellias. Having viewed Marguerite in a box at a public performance Armand is instantly smitten, and presses his suit-- although she already has a rich lover and an elderly protector. In the course of this novel Armand and Marguerite fall deeply in love--she for the first time. Can love cleanse her of her tainted lifestyle? Will society accept the reformation of a notorious courtesan? Passion, jealousy, pique, emotional cruelty and psychological torture drip from these 170 pages. But Armand lives in a fool's paradise if he thinks he can flaunt the mores of his class-conscious world. Working behind the scenes his father is desperate to save his son from social and financial ruin. Armand in life and Marguerite in death mistakenly trust their affairs to a faithless woman.

One underlying theme is that of redemption through love. The author incorporates many references to the Church and holy matters; gentle Julie hopes that God will forgive Marguerite greatly because she loved greatly. But is it enough? Will she be received into Heaven in return for her protracted physical suffering and mental anguish? You be the (merciful) judge!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Some tender young men and some coughing young women have only to speak the lines" 16 Dec. 2012
By D. Cloyce Smith - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The "real" Lady of the Camellias (mistranslated into English as Camille--but, there you have it, the name stuck) was Rose Alphonsine Plessis, who as a child was a street beggar, abandoned by her mother and, at the age of twelve, sold by her alcoholic father to an older man. She eventually moved to Paris and became a courtesan by the name of Marie Duplessis. She attracted the attention of a prominent duke, who taught her to read and write and hold her own among members of the upper class. At the age of twenty, she was, for a year, the mistress of Alexandre Dumas (the illegitimate son of the famous novelist), who would eventually become one of the most prominent French playwrights of his generation. She is also believed to have been, soon thereafter, the mistress of the composer Franz Liszt. By the time Dumas met her, Duplessis was already suffering from tuberculosis.

Lovelorn and heartbroken for years, Dumas would base his most famous play on their affair, but the story of the fictional Marguerite Gautier was originally a novel, written in three weeks and published in 1848, less than a year after Duplessis's death. The prose version didn't really become well known until four years later, when the play became a hit--and a scandal du jour. In its time, such famous actresses as Sarah Bernhardt and Helena Modjeska performed the lead role, and both the novel and play became internationally famous.

Yes, this "autobiographical novel" is often treacly and predictable; yes, the portrait of Marguerite borders on hagiographic; yes, the stage version is today virtually unwatchable without taking serious liberties with the overly sentimental dialogue. (Charles Ludlam, in drag, did a famously hilarious and appropriate send-up in the 1970s.) But, nevertheless, this relatively slim novel has taken on a life of its own, and if you're willing to wear your heart on your sleeve for its duration, it is oddly, unexpectedly powerful. Dumas's stroke of genius, which minimizes the over-romanticizing that usually results from depictions of improbable love affairs, is to create an additional character, the unnamed narrator who tells the story secondhand, removed one step from Armand Duval's affair with Marguerite.

"Camille" is a quick read and is relatively slim (by the standards of Dumas's father, anyway), and its influence on subsequent literature is vast. Dumas fils may not have invented a new archetype, but he surely resuscitated it: the street prostitute with a heart of gold, the sympathetic Magdalene type. "Camille" would become a famous opera (Verdi's "La traviata") and ballet (by Neumeier and Chopin) and would inspire any number of imitations and parodies of the "tart with a heart" storyline during the second half of the nineteenth century. Henry James defended Dumas in a letter to a friend, "he is detestable & a childish charlatan: but as a dramatist, I think he understands the business like none of the others." James, who originally saw the play in Paris as a teenager (to the shock of his family), would also write of the book's influence, "Some tender young men and some coughing young women have only to speak the lines to give it a great place among the love stories of the world."
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