SOURCE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookTrib for participating in the author's blog tour.
BLACK VENUS is a fictional account of the volatile relationship between French poet Charles Baudelaire and his muse, Jeanne Duval. Duval was his greatest joy, yet also the cause of much pain and grief in life. She was the daughter of a French plantation owner and Hatian slave, who made her way to Paris in the mid-1800s. Baudelaire first became infatuated with her while she was working as a cabaret singer, soon becoming his inspiration for his most famous and controversial work, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil).
This was a well-researched book, and I enjoyed how it presented a vivid account of life in Paris during that time. I loved stepping back into the world of bohemian artists and writers of the time, and seeing the social and political unrest that influenced their work. I thought that Baudelaire's obsenity trial and its outcome was particularly interesting, and also the fate of his publisher who believed in him.
In life, Baudelaire and Duval were troubled souls, and that came through in the book. However, the characters in the book fell a bit flat for me, and I never felt the strong, passionate connection that was supposedly between them. Something was missing. Since I'm a character-driven reader, I had a difficult time getting into the story because of that. Still, I liked journeying back to the streets of turbulent 19th century Paris - Paris itself was my favorite character in this book - with its beauty, cruelty, and vivacity. 3-stars.
About the Author:
James MacManus, who was born in London, began his career with The Guardian first as a reporter in the London office and then as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and the Middle East. Following a position on the diplomatic staff of the Daily Telegraph in London, he joined The Times, eventually rising to Managing Editor then Managing Director of The Times Literary Supplement. In 2006 his first screenplay became the major motion picture, The Children of Huang Shi, and in 2010 his critically acclaimed first novel, Language of the Sea, made its debut.