Black Venus (Hardcover)

By James MacManus

Thomas Dunne Books, 9781250014238, 354pp.

Publication Date: May 7, 2013

Other Editions of This Title:
MP3 CD (6/14/2016)

List Price: 25.99*
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A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.

For readers who have been drawn to "The Paris Wife," "Black Venus "captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Among the bohemians, the young Charles Baudelaire stood out dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems that he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.

One woman would catch his eye a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems leading to the banning of his masterwork, "Les Fleurs du Mal, " and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.

James MacManus's "Black Venus "re-creates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.

About the Author

JAMES MACMANUS is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Ocean Devil, which was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and The Language of the Sea. He lives in London.

Praise For Black Venus

Praise for Black Venus: 

“Beautifully capturing bohemian Paris in the late nineteenth century, Black Venus follows the rise and fall of the poet and translator Charles Baudelaire and his tempestuous relationship with his Haitian mistress, Jeanne Duval. … MacManus, managing director of the Times Literary Supplement, creates a gritty and engrossing world in this beautifully crafted narrative, which will leave readers swooning—and reaching for their favorite recording of La Bohème.” —Booklist (starred review)


“Historical romance fans with an interest in Baudelaire or a penchant for 19th-century Paris will enjoy this novel.” —Library Journal


“Through the clear narrative, readers are presented with a portrait of a complex relationship that grew within the decadent world of Parisian artists, poets and performers.” —RT Book Reviews  

“Very engaging and evocative of the Decadent Movement of Paris in the late 19th century, … I would recommend this book to any who are interested in Baudelaire, his poetry, reclaimed women’s history, or late 19th-century Paris.” —Historical Novels Review


“This was a captivating novel that shed light on more than just what we already knew on Baudelaire. But what I appreciated most was this new portrayal of history's much maligned Jeanne Duval. James MacManus brought forth a side of Jeanne that was easier to understand and even have compassion for. Black Venus is an exquisite read.” —The Examiner

"Captures the avant-garde scene of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century…. MacManus skillfully recreates Baudelaire’s world with verve and imagination and renders a believable fictional interpretation of two very tempestuous personalities and their motives." —The Hudson Review<> Praise for The Language of the Sea:

"Blending mystical fantasy with contemporary science, MacManus weaves an otherworldly tale of one man’s frenzied search for identity and fantastic quest for survival." —Booklist

“This is one of those rare things, a passionate book, written with feeling. Gripping drama plus well-drawn characters and a wonderfully absorbing and moving read.”
—Daily Mail (UK)