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Black Venus Hardcover – 27 Feb 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715647423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715647424
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 3.2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 692,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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

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.


Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
This certainly has all the ingredients of a good story - but ingredients alone don't make for a great meal. The quality of the writing is unsure at best and dodgy at worst, especially in the numerous love scenes. To give you a sampler: 'He opened his mouth and took the glass heart, sucking it as he had done those large boiled sweets his father had given him as a child... Her breasts brushed his face. she turned to drink from the glass and then kissed him, allowing the drink to flow between them.... 'The taste of heaven?' she asked. 'I'll tell you when I get there'. Pages and pages of similar stuff. The problem is, of course, that the poet himself has done the task of recalling some of the sexual encounters with his mistress - who could emulate that?

Neither the figure of the 'black Venus' nor Beaudelaire himself are made to come alive. Jeanne never rises above the level of a primitive, illiterate and unlovable whore and no plausible theory is offered as to why he was so enamoured of her - but there surely must have been a reason? As for the great poet himself, he is portrayed as a spoiled and feckless brat: which might indeed be true but does nothing to explain the origins of his great poetry. There must have been more to Beaudelaire than this, one feels.

In addition, there are numerous minor errors, repetitions and so on, indicative of bad editing. to give an example: did Paris publishers really have a wife and kids who lived 'somewhere in the suburbs'? Paris is not like that., neither then nor now. Nor is the rue de Rivoli on the left bank. And there are strange breaches in continuity - suddenly there is an unmotivated and unexplained leap 17 years forward in the story. Or is it 15 years, as is suggested a couple of pages later?
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By Great Historicals TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
Black Venus is a novel about Charles Baudelaire and his mistress, Jeanne Duval. Charles Baudelaire was not a man of affluence, however, he yearned to be so. He desired the luxuries of life and strived for it, even at the risk of his own reputation. He spent money lavishly, gambling and womanizing, even indulging in drink and drugs. His mother and stepfather often came to his rescue when his debts got out of control and imposed a strict allowance, severely restricting him.

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!
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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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