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The Last Nude

Ellis Avery


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (1/4/2012)
CD-Audio (1/5/2012)
Hardcover (1/5/2012)


“As erotic and powerful as the paintings that inspired it.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Paris, 1927. 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 support herself, 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. A tour de force of historical imagination, The Last Nude is about genius and craft, love and desire, regret and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.

Praise For The Last Nude

“[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

Riverhead Books, 9781594486470, 352pp.

Publication Date: December 31, 2012

About the Author

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 was also the author of The Smoke Week, an award-winning 9/11 memoir. She taught fiction writing at Columbia University.

Conversation Starters from

Do you think Rafaela made the right decision in eluding her grandmother and going to Paris?

How does Tamara change Rafaela’s life? How does Rafaela change after they first meet? After she finds out the truth about Tamara’s intentions?

How do Gin and Rafaela’s relationships (with Daniel and Tamara) mirror each other?

What kind of an artist is Tamara? Rafaela? Anson?

How does each character (Rafaela, Tamara, Anson, Gin) support him or herself? To what extent do Rafaela and Tamara’s means of financial support affect the choices they make?

Has Tamara changed in the second half of the novel? If yes, how?

Which woman needs the other more? Why? Does this change over the course of the novel?

The paintings that appear in this book serve different functions. How do you think Tamara’s Duchesse de la Salle portrait, La Belle Rafaela, and The Dream serve the story? How does Vermeer’s The Lacemaker serve it?

The last line in the book is “This time, I have painted your eyes open.” What is Tamara trying to say? How did you respond to this ending?

How does Rafaela’s relationship to Anson evolve over the course of the novel? Did your view of him change at all?