The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis (Paperback)

The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis By Julie Kavanagh Cover Image
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This riveting biography brilliantly explores the short, intense, and passionate life of the country girl from Normandy, who at thirteen fled her brute of a father to go to Paris. Almost overnight she became one of the most admired courtesans of the 1840s—the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas filsThe Lady of the Camellias and Verdi’s La Traviata. With her aristocratic ways, elegant clothes and signature camellias, Marie was always a subject of fascination at the opera and the boulevard cafés. Her death at twenty-three from tuberculosis created such an outpouring of sympathy in the press that Charles Dickens, who was in Paris at the time, was amazed. “Everything is erased in the face of an incident which is far more important,” he wrote, “the romantic death of one of the glories of the demi-monde, the beautiful, the famous Marie Duplessis.”

About the Author

Julie Kavanagh is the author of Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton and Nureyev. She was trained as a dancer at the Royal Ballet School, graduated from Oxford with a First in English, and has been the arts editor of Harpers & Queen, a dance critic at The Spectator, and London editor of both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. She is currently a writer and contributing editor for The Economist’s bi-monthly magazine, Intelligent Life

Praise For…

“We are in Kavanagh’s debt for shining a light on this woman almost forgotten in the dust of history, allowing her legend to endure. . . . The Lady Who Loved Camellias has it all. Ms. Kavanagh is a well-established biographer and achieved international fame with her previous, definitive biography on the great dancer, Nureyev. This new book cements her well-deserved reputation.”
New York Journal of Books
“Colorful. . . . Julie Kavanagh exposes the tawdry reality behind her heroine’s legend.”
The New York Times
“Julie Kavanagh ships us into 19th-century Paris and into the boudoir of Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis.”
Vanity Fair
“An absorbing, thoughtful, endlessly fascinating portrayal of a remarkable world.”
The Sunday Times (UK)

“Kavanagh underscores what made Duplessis such an object of fascination. . . . What results is a warm portrait of the motivations and choices of an enigmatic woman who managed to both deeply embody and brazenly defy the conventions of her time.”
The Daily Beast

“In taking on Duplessis, Kavanagh pieces together the details of a glamorous and tragic life of a woman whose influence as a muse has outlived her own fame.”
The New Yorker

“Extraordinary. . . . [Kavanagh places] Marie’s story within the larger setting of French gallantry in the first half of the nineteenth century, and she does so with uncommon precision, ferreting out all available information about the secondary characters and bringing them to life. Her surefooted sense of the telling detail and the vigor of her style allow Kavanagh to sustain her reader’s interest.”
The New York Review of Books

“Kavanagh is the biographer Rudolf Nureyev, and the formidably detailed research that she brought to [that volume] is in evidence in her account of Marie’s brief life. In her hands, bills from Marie’s doctors, florist, livery yard and milliner blossom into vivid narrative life. Unlike Dumas, she doesn’t romanticise her heroine; she has a bracingly sharp eye for the horrors of even a high-class courtesan’s existence, and acknowledges Marie’s hardheartedness, as well as her fascination and her vulnerability. . . . Kavanagh’s biography of Marie sparkles with affection for a spirited waif who made good in the only way she knew how.”
The Telegraph (UK)

“Kavanagh succeeds brilliantly in coming as close to her subject as it is possible. . . . A compelling and moving account of a short, forgotten life which is far more interesting than fiction.”
The Spectator (UK)

“‘It is,’ said Proust, ‘a work which goes straight to the heart.’ He was talking about La Traviata, which was first performed in Venice in 1853 and is still performed around the world 160 years on. The plot is as unlikely as the plots of most operas and as full of mad, melodramatic twists. But its story, it is clear from this extraordinary book, isn’t half as melodramatic as the life that inspired it.”
The Sunday Times (UK)

“Equipped with the treasures gleaned from persistent research and guided by empathy. . . . Kavanagh is a warm, nimble portraitist, wryly chronicling the glittering if doomed realm of the courtesan. . . . Now Duplessis is a muse once again, this time for an adept biographer who elegantly preserves her indelible true story.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Thanks to a talented author, this tragedy is a pleasure to read. Already praised as a biographer, Kavanagh intertwines the adventures of a famous courtesan with a fascinating period in Parisian history, with each scene spotlighting yet another titillating aspect of 1840s bohemia. . . . A thoroughly researched and fascinating account of Duplessis’s short life and lengthy legacy.”
Publishers Weekly

“Marie Duplessis—the tragic inspiration for La Dame aux Camélias and La Traviata—crammed more drama into her short life than either of her fictionalised personas. Her true story has been crying out to be told. Now, at last, the enigmatic Duplessis has found a brilliant biographer in Kavanagh. The Girl Who Loved Camellias is not only a wonderful read: vivid and moving, but full of fascinating discoveries.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War

“I was enthralled by the wholly unexpected life of Marie Duplessis, and entirely captivated by the cinematic realism of this wonderful book’s evocation of her world. Julie Kavanagh plunges you right into the Parisian demi-monde and redefines what it means to be a genuine star.”
—Sir Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theater and The Madness of King George, The History Boys, and One Man, Two Guvnors

“Hugely enjoyable—this book is for anyone with an interest in opera, celebrity, sex and money.”
—Sir Richard Eyre, Director of the National Theater, 1987-1997, of La Traviata, Guys and Dolls and the film, Notes on a Scandal
Product Details
ISBN: 9780804171557
ISBN-10: 0804171556
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: August 12th, 2014
Pages: 320
Language: English
Series: Vintage