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Inspired by real events in Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka's history, "The Last Nude" is a tour de force of historical imagination. 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.
"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. .
A sweeping debut novel drawn from a history shrouded in secrets about two women--one American, one Japanese--whose fates become entwined in the rapidly changing world of late-nineteenth-century Japan. When nine-year-old Aurelia Bernard takes shelter in Kyoto's beautiful and mysterious Baishian teahouse after a fire one night in 1866, she is unaware of the building's purpose. She has just fled the only family she's ever known: after her French immigrant mother died of cholera in New York, her abusive missionary uncle brought her along on his assignment to Christianize Japan. She finds in Baishian a place that will open up entirely new worlds to her and bring her a new family. It is there that she discovers the woman who will come to define the next several decades of her life, Shin Yukako, daughter of Kyoto's most important tea master and one of the first women to openly practice the sacred ceremony known as the Way of Tea. For hundreds of years, Japan's warriors and well-off men would gather in tatami-floored structures-- teahouses--to participate in an event that was equal parts ritual dance and sacramental meal. Women were rarely welcome, and often expressly forbidden. But in the late nineteenth century, Japan opened its doors to the West for the first time, and the seeds of drastic changes that would shake all of Japanese society, even this most civilized of arts, were planted. Taking her for the abandoned daughter of a prostitute rather than a foreigner, the Shin family renames Aurelia "Urako" and adopts her as Yukako's attendant and surrogate younger sister. Yukako provides Aurelia with generosity, wisdom, and protection as she navigates a culture that is not accepting of outsiders. From her privileged position at Yukako's side, Aurelia aids in Yukako's crusade to preserve the tea ceremony as it starts to fall out of favor under pressure of intense Westernization. And Aurelia herself is embraced and rejected as modernizing Japan embraces and rejects an era of radical change. An utterly absorbing story told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.
Set in the late nineteenth century at a turning point in Japan's relationship with the western world, THE TEAHOUSE FIRE is the story of Aurelia, a young French-American girl who, after the death of her mother, finds herself lost and alone in Japan and in need of a new family. Knowing only a few words of Japanese she hides in a tea house and is adopted by the family who own it: gradually falling in love with both the tea ceremony and with her young mistress, Yukako. As Aurelia grows up she devotes herself to the family and its failing fortunes in the face of civil war and western intervention, and to Yukako's love affairs and subsequent marriage. But her feelings for her mistress are never reciprocated and as tensions mount in the household Aurelia begins to realise that to the world around her she will never be anything but a foreigner. Like MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, THE TEAHOUSE FIRE is an utterly convincing recreation of a now lost world and a fascinating insight into the intricacies and intimacies of the tea ceremony.
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