A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A young woman follows the man she loves to Paris and finds, amid the wildness of Second Empire luxury and treachery, many loves to win and lose. She must also find a way to a life she can truly call her own.
"An arresting tale of what it meant to survive as a woman . . . [and] an unflinching portrait of love and loss against a landscape of Parisian decadence.”—Deborah Harkness
“Epic times make for epic books . . . Wonderful, suspenseful reading.”—Karen Joy Fowler
"Eugénie R. is every girl in a daguerreotype looking over her shoulder, every woman with a baby hurrying away from you down a gas-lit street, and then too, she is the first of her kind, a woman who stands at her own barricades and fights a France determined to render her silent. I lost myself whole-heartedly in her story, and would have followed her down any narrow alley, into any candlelit room, just to know what happened, to stay back there and to delay coming home."—Sarah Blake
“Fiction in the grand tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy.”—Howard Frank Mosher
"Lord! How beautifully this is written. How rare that is to discover."—Dorothy Allison
Penguin Group v-p and editor-at-large DeSanti presents an eclectic mix of ideas and social history in her debut novel. At 17, Eug nie Rigault follows a seducer to Paris, but quickly finds herself on her own. She moves from artist s model to prostitute, takes lovers, and gives birth to and gives away a daughter. In five sections that each quote C leste Mogador s scandalous Memoirs and unfold against the mid-19th-century turmoil of the Second Empire, DeSanti chronicles Eug nie s attempts to build a life for herself, survive as a woman, and reclaim her daughter. Eug nie, an admittedly unreliable narrator who refuses to accept advice or learn from her mistakes, is difficult to root for; she acts on impulse and expects to be rescued (and she is). But readers will find passion in the writing; DeSanti s descriptions are full of lush, sensual detail. In the brothel, though she doesn t give a sense of the men or the quotidian grind, DeSanti shines in depicting the dynamics between the girls, the business, and Eug nie s internal conflict. Though it s hard to care for such a self-centered heroine, the sweeping, fascinating epic is full of drama and beauty.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A struggle to finish...
I am an avid reader of historical fiction, and enjoy being swept away to another time and place. But I also want characters I care about and can empathize (or at least sympathize) with, and I could not find that in Passions of Eugenie R. The author does use beautiful prose, but often to the point that it clouds the story. I found myself skimming and skipping page after page, seeking the story. There is never an opportunity to connect to anyone, even Eugenie. I never came to like her, dislike her, or really feel anything at all for her...The main character! For the majority of the book she seems to be in a fog, and it left me in one too.
I did give a second star only because the story really does make you think about the misery of the people in this situation and time. However, I would not recommend this book. With such great reading out there, don't waste your time on this one.
I had come to this book based on glowing recommendations on NPR. The author is very skilled at prose but the plot and character development were flat. The prose were not enough to propel the story forward and after 80 pages, I could have cared less about the main character.