Prima Donna Paperback – 29 Dec 2009
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"Riveting...a guilty pleasure that is nearly impossible to stop reading."
About the Author
Megan Chance is the award-winning author of several adult novels, including Bone River. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at: www.meganchance.com
Top Customer Reviews
*Yawn*. Despite not being a great fan of opera, I actually had great hopes for this one, especially with the setting being my own home town - Seattle. Unfortunately as some other reviewers have noted none of the characters were terribly likeable and in fact most times were downright distasteful as was much of the language they used as well as their sexual relationships (does everyone like it rough and ready?). Sabina was bordering on TSTL over Gideon and his machinations (oh come with the suspecting the maids of stealing her jewels), and I also found it hard to believe that no one would have raised an eyebrow at a young girl old traveling around the country with her brother and *manager* without a proper escort.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I've read three of Megan Chances novels, and they've all been enjoyable, fast-paced reads. Prima Donna, like The Spiritualist: : A Novel and An Inconvenient Wife, is well-researched, and draws you in to the Victorian era like few other novels can. It's an extremely absorbing novel that I never really wanted to put down. Her previous books have a bit more suspense to them, but this is equally enjoyable nonetheless. Without trying to give anything away (and I know I'm being very vague here), what I started out thinking had happened turned out not to be the case--to my surprise and delight. I'm not sure if the author meant for her readers to think what I did, but it was effective nonetheless.
Character development is equally strong, though I thought that out of the main characters, Johnny's is the weakest. For example, we never know much about his backstory, and, given his personality, his actions towards the end of the novel are not really believable. Still, the best character in this book is Marguerite/Sabine, who fairly leaps off the page--first as a naive, slightly breathy teenager, and then later as a world-knowledgeable woman in her twenties. It's clear that Marguerite/ Sabine has grown up over the years. Equally strong was her complicated relationship with Gideon Price--clearly, not a good influence on Marguerite, but someone who she's attracted to nonetheless. With the exception of the flaw I mentioned above, I really, really enjoyed this book. Read The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife if you haven't already, as well as this one; you won't be disappointed.
I did not care for the journal of young Sabine. Thru her words readers visit the scandalous and heated backstages of 1800s opera, but it is literally a soap opera about the opera. Everybody is sleeping with everybody else and on top of being incredibly selfish, spoiled, and wanton, Sabine is also unbelievably naive. Her lover, Gideon takes women left and right and she cannot figure him out? Her jewelry also keeps disappearing. Hello, Sabine? Anybody home in that brain? Something else I found bothersome was that anytime Sabine and Gideon have words, they must sum it up with rough sex.
Seattle Sabine is not much better. Tho she lacks the fame, money, and pretty dresses, she still offers her body to get what she wants and thinks only of herself. Tho hiding from her past and those that are searching for her, her vanity and love of her own voice may be her downfall. She begins a show business venture with her current lover and it is only a matter of time before her past catches up to her and she has a decision to make.
I was all prepared to give this four stars due to the amazing historical details and the fact that I truly felt I was on the rainy streets of 1878 Seattle, but just when I thought Sabine was finally redeeming herself, I lost what little respect I had for her around page 334. The ending left me feeling empty. I feel Sabine went back to square one and well... what was the point of all this then?
Instead Sabin takes on the name of Marguerite Olson and, almost unrecognizable with a deforming scar across her face, works as a bar maid in a sleazy tavern in Seattle. But the lure of the stage is strong and soon even the little platform the taverns owner, Johnny, has built, has her lusting after music. She can't sing of course-she's far too recognizable- but the "severing girls" who will keep company with men for a price can be trained to sing and play-badly. And at this point Johnny, a rough, harsh man who loves Marguerite, decides he wants to go bigger and bolder.
We watch Sabine's life unravel both in the past and in the present as a lust for music and fame (in the past) and a fear of being found but a craving for the stage (in the present) prove to be her undoing. Her little tavern stage and the jewelry she sold to cross the country she sold from New York after a violent incident that left the scar across her face leave a clear path for her old manager, one time lover, and tyrant, Gideon Price to follow. And once they meet again the one sided story we've been told so far by Sabin opens up into a three dimensional tale where there is no clear bad guy and everyone may have done something wrong....
Like most of Chance's novels this book basically boils down to perception versus reality. This had worked for her before: the Salem witch trials-no better place for exploring such a thing. Female hysteria, bring it on. An innocent women being charged with murder because she wasn't rich before her marriage-all the kinds of things where perception plays an equal or larger role than reality.
But here we have, through Sabine's diaries of her days on the stage from the tender age of 16 acess to her inner most thoughts, desires and fears. Her increasing unease and unhappiness with Gideon as her manager; The element of fear when she's around him-and a feeling of degradation at things she feels he makes her do. Lets be frank, there's no doubt that Sabin will debase, beg, and whore her way to the top is she needs too-but Gideon is always in the wings, And just as Sabin in truly coming to terms with her new life as Marguerite there's a big event which is kind of a "here he comes to save the day moment" only it's really only it's "oh you silly dear. I didn't make you do those things. You just need a strong guiding hand like all women."
Also the writing was pretty bad. The dairy entries were the most entertaining part of the novel and they were stiff and so coated with selfishness I wanted to gag. And in the present life is bleak-and Marguerite so depressed and withdrawn that getting through her sections was like wading through molasses.
The Queen of historical feminism goes all caveman on us? I was confused-and sad. Everyone loves a love triumphs in the end story but this was more than that. I gotta say, I'm not too interested right now in reading Chance's new Novel, "City of Ash."
Two and a half stars.
Right off the bat I didn't like Marguerite/Sabine very much, and my dislike for her only intensified throughout the novel. The book alternates between her in Seattle under an assumed name, and her journal entries starting from when she was sixteen. I really began to dread the journal entries. Sabine was an incredibly spoiled brat who was unable to make her own decisions, then would blame everyone else around her when things didn't go her way. Her manager/lover Gideon wasn't much better. They were so destructive together that I would become very angry while reading this...not how I like my books to make me feel.
Older, Seattle Sabine (Marguerite), was not much better. Any time she wanted something, or didn't get her way, she morphed into a flaming whore. Really! Even as a teenager, in the journal entries, everything was about sex. Her and Gideon would fight (which was pretty much all the time), and they would end up having violent sex...she needed money or the notice of society, so she'd sleep with a wealthy man twice her age, then complaine about how she felt cheap...ahhh, she WAS!! And she KEPT doing it...that's what drove me crazy!
By the end of the book, I was almost exhausted from reading page after page of Marguerite lying to her Seattle friends and lovers. Of her back-and-fourth of 'What an I gonna do?' Where am I gonna go'? Senseless lie upon lie that she doled out to her boss/lover Johnny, and how she would sometimes lie to her only friend Charlotte for seemingly no reason. UGH!! Anyway, in the end, I didn't HATE the book...I mean, I did finish it. It'll keep you reading just to find out what happened, and why Sabine ran away from her life, and who she murdered...however be prepared. Sabine is a most unlikeable character, and I'd be SHOCKED if you didn't find yourself wanting to hurl the book across the room at least once.