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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

This is a deceptively serious book written in a light fashion.  It centers on a cabaret style club in France, owned by Yvonne.  She has a pet lizard and a weakness for sailors.  Her club is the hub of sexual transgressions, military intrigue, and social change.  The interlocking voices who tell the story — all seductive and unreliable in their own ways — show Paris as it devolves from the decadence and gallows humor of the 1930s to the terror and bravery of the Occupation.  In this alchemy of patriotism, xenophobia, sexual frustration and anti-Semitism, the book raises up underground heroes and cosmic villains. We hear first off from Brassaï, self renamed Gabor, in his affectionate letters to his parents in Hungary. While they are attempts at reassurance and full of gratitude for their financial support, he describes the bizarre sights of the city even while begging them not to worry.  The other characters are equally diverse and interesting and the scenes are disturbing and turbulent, all the while maintaining an air of off-handedness.

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