The Last Nude
By Ellis Avery
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594488139, 320pp.)
Publication Date: January 5, 2012
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As erotic and powerful as the paintings that inspired it.”Emma Donoghue, author of Room
Paris, 1927. In the heady years before the crash, financiers drape their mistresses in Chanel, while expatriates flock to the avant-garde bookshop Shakespeare and Company. One day in July, a young American named Rafaela Fano gets into the car of a coolly dazzling stranger, the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka.
Struggling to halt a downward slide toward prostitution, Rafaela agrees to model for the artist, a dispossessed Saint Petersburg aristocrat with a murky past. The two become lovers, and Rafaela inspires Tamara's most iconic Jazz Age images, among them her most accomplished-and coveted-works of art. A season as the painter's muse teaches Rafaela some hard lessons: Tamara is a cocktail of raw hunger and glittering artifice. And all the while, their romantic idyll is threatened by history's darkening tide.
Inspired by real events in de Lempicka's history, The Last Nude is a tour de force of historical imagination. Ellis Avery gives the reader a tantalizing window into a lost Paris, an age already vanishing as the inexorable forces of history close in on two tangled lives. Spellbinding and provocative, this is a novel about genius and craft, love and desire, regret and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.
Ellis Avery’s first novel, The Teahouse Fire, set in the tea ceremony world of nineteenth-century Japan, has been translated into five languages and has won three awards, including the American Library Association Stonewall Award. Avery is also the author of The Smoke Week, an award-winning 9/11 memoir. She teaches fiction writing at Columbia University and lives in New York City.
- Do you think Rafaela made the right decision in eluding her grandmother and going to Paris?
“[An] amazing book . . . wholly original and engrossing.”—The Boston Globe
“The Last Nude breaks important ground for literature, and does so with exuberance, skill, and grace.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A compulsively readable novel.”—The Washington Post
“A taut, elegant novel . . . [Avery’s] prose sings.”—MORE Magazine
“Seductive and compelling, the novel is painted with as much drama and precision as one of Lempicka’s canvases.”—The Daily Beast
“A sly, sleekly written stereograph of art, desire, and desperation in Paris in the ’20s, The Last Nude brings Rafaela to electric life, much as Tamara de Lempicka did when she painted her.”—Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
“The Last Nude is a remarkable novel: at once a seductive evocation of Lost Generation Paris, a faithful literary rendering of Tamara de Lempicka's idiosyncratic and groundbreaking art, and a vibrant, intelligent, affecting story in its own right. It’s also smoking hot.”—Emily Barton, author of Brookland
“Ellis Avery transports the reader on a fast-paced magic-carpet ride to Paris between the world wars, a time when artists, patrons, and models fused the business of sex and art, with deeply painful results.”—Aaron Hamburger, author of Faith for Beginners
“The Last Nude carries us through one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods in modern art, and into the minds and bodies of two of art history’s most riveting heroines. With prose and imagery that are both lyrical and unabashedly sensual, Ellis Avery breathes life and depth into famed artist’s muse Rafaela, tracing her rocky but thrilling path from lost girl to Lost Generation icon, and laying bare acts of love, desire and betrayal with all the assuredness of a master artist herself.”—Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai