The Queen of the Night - Alexander Chee

February 9, 2018

3/5 Stars

 

An ambitious, sweeping novel with a surprising lack of emotional engagement.

The description for this book sounded utterly divine. A legendary soprano's life, and her journey from obscurity in a circus to nationwide fandom, thanks to her exquisite 'falcon soprano' voice. How could I resist such a sumptuous storyline?

However, for me, it fell rather flat, and I found myself struggling to get through it (my apologies to the author). 

 

 


Lilliet Berne is from a humble background; scolded by her mother for taking too much pride in her voice. After her family dies, she joins a circus as a horse-rider / singer, where she sets the audience alight with her beautiful voice. Escaping once again, she befriends a prostitute and ends up in a similarly sordid life, which lands her in prison, until she's rescued by a man known only as The Tenor. 

Sounds fast-paced, right? That's because it is, despite the sheer size of the book. Lilliet is seemingly bounced from situation to situation; as a whore, a secret lover, a kept woman and even the Empress's maid - and I think this is part of the problem. The movement of this book is relentless, and doesn't give the reader a chance to savour any moments, or indeed any characters. For all the rich descriptions (many of which were lovely), without the variation in pace, it felt like a breathless marathon of a book, and for me, that was a struggle. 

However, there is much that is really good in it. The detail is impressive, and I felt like I really got to grips with opera (not something I know much about). I likewise appreciated many of the characters - but wished I'd had the opportunity to get to know them more. Their motivations, thoughts and emotions were often a mystery, and this had a strange, distancing effect.

To conclude - it's by no means a bad read, and if you love sweeping, epic novels, you'll probably get on with it well. I'll keep an eye out for further books from the author, because I suspect he's done other books that are much more my sort of thing.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!

Please reload

Recent Posts
Please reload

Archive
Please reload

Search By Tags

I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!

Please reload

Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square