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The Last Nude

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  9,292 ratings  ·  286 reviews
"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
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Riverhead Books
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Kristen Hovet
I haven't given five stars to a book in a long time, so that's something!

This was such a beautiful book to read. I loved the subtle, smooth writing style, the descriptions of everyday objects and happenings, the way the characters' eyes opened in different ways...I loved all of it.

I even loved the switch of perspective at the end -- which, judging from many reviews, most people did not like or were uncomfortable with -- where we enter the mind of the person in the story whom we most come to re
Holly Weiss
Dec 11, 2011 Holly Weiss rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Holly by: Karen Dugas
When is a muse an inspiration and when is she a plaything? The distinction is hazy in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude.

1927 Paris, Rafaela only wants a hundred francs to buy a black dress so she can take over her flat mate’s department store job. In danger of falling into prostitution, she meets Tamara De Lempicka, painter of exotic, sexy Art Deco, and poses for several paintings.

Although outside the parameters of what I usually read, this period piece is well written and sensual. The writer skillful
Historical fiction is, essentially, literary fan fiction. It’s the literary part that gives it more cred than “Friday Night Lights” superfans hanging out on a bulletin board dreamily considering what if Julie Taylor came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her lips flushed and red, her skin dewy, and found Tim Riggins, primed, and sweating Red Stripe from his pores into her duvet. But at it’s core it is still fan fiction, with a high percentage of words spelled correctly and void of emoticon ...more
David Lentz
I received an advance copy of this novel from the Amazon VINE Program for which I am a reviewer. The writing style of Ellis Avery is glorious beyond belief. It's as if a truly gifted writer sought and succeeded in conveying in the brush strokes of her words the experience of the master portrait painter with her canvas. The brush strokes of the syntax are inspired and lucious and rich with well-mixed colors. The intriguing storyline is masterfully crafted with a magnificent interplay of light and ...more
With razor-sharp prose and an unapologetic lack of sentimentality, THE LAST NUDE depicts a pivotal time in 1920s Paris, during the life of the acclaimed Art Deco painter, Tamara Lempicka, and her tumultuous affair with an American-born teenage muse, Rafaela, immortalized in Lempicka's work, "La Bella Rafaela."

Told almost entirely in Rafaela's jaded yet inherently naive voice, we enter the linseed-scented studio and hedonistic lifestyle of the enigmatic Tamara, whose bisexuality and obscure past
I don't know...I just didn't like it all that much. I paint myself, and really I just copy stuff that I like and I'm pretty good at it. I've done several Lempika's, Saint Morritz, and Spring, another one or two. I love Lempika's work, I just don't like her. I read the biography Kizette wrote about her years ago, so I already knew a fair amount about her. It's hard to know what's real and what's not in this book. I would be interested in knowing about Raphaela, but I'd like to know what's real an ...more
Jun 29, 2012 Jan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists, writers, queer and queer-friendly people
How wonderful to find a historical novel with a main bi character who is not the villain of the piece, but rather one of its moral centers. In *The Last Nude,*" Ellis Avery recreates the lives of Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish painter in 1920s Paris, and her model and lover Rafaela Fano. She also takes us on a tour of the female queer demimonde of the place and time, with cameos by famous literary and art world figures. Erotic as well as imaginative, this book made me put Avery's other two books, ...more
I gave myself a personal challenge this year and that was to read a new release each month. This was my first read in the challenge.

I didn't know anything about the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka before reading this book. One of the things I like about historical fiction is that it gives me the opportunity to learn about historical people and events.

This book tells the story of the relationship between Tamara de Lempinski and her model, Rafaela Fano. The first part of the book is narrated
Anne Broyles
I confess that prior to this novel, I had not heard of the Polish art deco artist, Tamta de Lempicka. I do know about and enjoy details of the Lost Generation (“Midnight in Paris” acquainted many people with some of these characters) in Paris. Avery’s novel tells some of the painter’s story, letting us meet Tamara through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Rafaela Fano, who became muse and model for de Lempicka.

I went back and forth between de Lempicka’s paintings online and the book that imagined h
A fascinating book about an intriguing premise – the love affair between Tamara de Lempicka and her model. Tamara de Lempicka was a painter most famous in the twenties where her severe, cubist work caught the imagination of the French with its Art Deco allure. Lempicka painted a mysterious woman named Rafaela and the back story that the writer invents for this muse is interesting, but lacks plausibility. Rafaela is a girl from New York City being sent to Italy for an arranged marriage. She makes ...more
Undoubtedly, this was a very distinguishable read. As in strikingly unique and beautiful. Ellis Avery manages to combine two of my favorite types of prose: the lyrical one and the visceral one. Clearly, the result is explosive. Paragraphs with incredible intimist sentences and at the same time, direct, dried and raw conversations - quite a dangerous combination. But it can be wonderful.

In part I (which takes almost 80% of the story), the narrative is from Rafaela's point of view. She's a 17 year
When I think of Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings (“Portrait of Ira P, 1930” or “Self Portrait in Green Bugatti”), I’m mindful of the similar sheen of cloth and metal. The catchlight in pupils gleams a little too hard to be warm—or altogether human. And “La Belle Rafaela, 1927,” the image that figures so significantly in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude seems a portrait of an alien, nippless being, illumed by internal incandescence that might be translated as emotion.

In Avery’s fiction, the model—and n
This book was divided in to two parts..the first 80% was told from the viewpoint of Rafaela, a 17 year old runaway who has been prostituting herself to unattractive, wealthy men to get by in 1920's Paris. She meets female painter Tamara, who offers her money to pose nude. They begin a sexual relationship, which Rafaela believes is a love affair...however, she finds out that Tamara has been cruelly plotting behind her back to win the affections of a Baron and become his wife. They have a telling, ...more
Kaycie Hall
This book is one of those historical fiction pieces about one particular writer/artist/etc, in this case the artist Tamara de Lempicka. One of my coworkers warned me that it was bordering on lesbian erotica, but I didn't think it was too racy. Maybe I'm just jaded as far as raciness goes? Who knows, but in any case, this book was a quick read about an artist I knew nothing about. Also good to know--being set in 1930s Paris, this novel was riddled with expat references--Sylvia Barnes, Djuna Barne ...more
Elaine Burnes
I’ll never look at a painting of a person, especially a nude, in the same way again—or rather, I’ll look at a painting more fully. Who is that model? If she was the wife or lover of the painter, was she happy? Was she forced into that position? Both physically and metaphorically.

We think of the models as providing mere content for the painting. Look at how the fabric folds, or how the shadows play across the nude form. It’s not a form, it’s a human being, with a life and aspirations and heartac
Tara Chevrestt
A fascinating book. I was so intrigued by all of its characters and going ons, that I had to google the Lempicka's complete works and see the paintings mentioned in the novel for myself.

Tamara Lempicka was a famous artist who began her life as a Pole in Russia...later kicked out in the revolution. She honed her skills as a a painter in Paris and explored freely with her sexuality. Apparently, (in this book, anyway) any artistic woman in France in 1927 worth her salt was a Lesbian. The heroine a
At 16, Italian- American Rafaela is a ravishing beauty – and her stepfather wants her married as soon as possible. Rafaela resists the awful plan to marry her off to a cousin in Sicily, and when her much-hated step-grandmother nearly dies on the steamship crossing to Europe, Rafaela makes her escape. Having no money, she exchanges sex for a ticket to Paris. The year is 1927 and Paris is full of artists and writers – there is no shortage of wealthy men to use for a while – but then Rafaela meets ...more
Bonnie Brody
The Last Nude by Ellis Avery is a fascinating book about the painter Tamara de Lempicka. Taking place primarily in Paris during 1927, Tamara picks up Rafaela Fano in her car and begins to use her as a model. Prior to modeling for Tamara, 17-year-old Rafaela was prostituting herself and living hand to mouth. A very sensuous and loving relationship develops. However, it does not pan out as Rafaela would hope. Tamara has reasons to want money and prestige, things that do not come with Rafaela. Rafa ...more
Jean Roberta
Paris in the 1920s was a glittering refuge for expatriate artists, hedonists, the sexually unconventional, exiles and runaways of all sorts. Its soundtrack was le jazz hot. The author of this novel, who teaches fiction-writing at Columbia University in New York, has brought this milieu back to life in words that seem as carefully chosen as a palette of colours.

The “last nude” of the title is a copy of one of the six paintings of “beautiful Rafaela” made in the 1920s by an actual painter, Tamara
Christy B
The Last Nude is a beautiful novel that reads fast, but does not lack in quality.

Most of the novel is set in 1927 Paris told from the point-of-view of Rafaela Fano, an 17-year-old Italian American. While it was written in the first person, it sometimes felt like third person because Rafaela wasn't a reliable narrator. She chooses what she does and does not see and convinces herself of things that are not true.

In 1927 Rafaela meets painter Tamara de Lempicka and agrees to pose for her. She insp
Jori Richardson
Dec 01, 2012 Jori Richardson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jori by: Early Reviewers
In the golden age of 1920's Paris, wealth radiates off the streets. Gertrude Stein holds lavish salons, the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop hosts expatriates and aspiring novelists such as James Joyce, and painter Tamara de Lempicka prepares to create her greatest masterpieces.

It is this world that the reader, and our main character of Rafaela Fano is thrown into. Struggling and desperate, Rafaela - a young girl who has recently run away to Paris rather than marry against her will - reluctantly a
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I loved this book. And in that way when I'm totally smitten, I'm not even sure I can compose complete sentences explaining why I loved this book so. In short: the writing is gorgeous, the romance sensual and sexy, and the characters sketched quickly but warmly despite their flaws.

First, the setting. I'm mad for Paris in the late '20s and I love the circle of artists the novel focuses on; Avery creates the ambiance without bogging down the story in details. There's a mix of hard scrabble poverty
The Last Nude was thrust at me by a coworker. It sat on my "to read" pile for several weeks. Shame on me. I should have read it immediately. The story line was fascitnating if not a little shocking. But in Paris in the 1920's nothing should be off limits. My only concern with the book is the use of the French language frequently. Since I have little knowledge of French, it was difficult to understand the exact meaning the author was trying to convey.
After finishing The Last Nude, just for fun,
Crystal Barthelette
"The weird fuckable radiance that clung to me would drift off to gild and baffle younger girls than I."

I love that quote.

Avery's writing is beautifully poetic. She has a grasp on character and scenery that makes the story come alive, it really brings you there, to a roaring art infused, romantic Paris of the twenties, replete with cocaine nights, absinthe drinkers, opium smokers, bohemians and dreamers. You are given a full- bodied history of the senses, touch, taste, feel and sound, but most of
I knew absolutely nothing about Tamara de Lempicka before starting this novel, and it wasn't until I was partway into the story that I realized that she was a real person. I looked up her artwork online and was absolutely blown away, especially by La Belle Rafaela, the red version:

Avery does an excellent job imagining the relationship between Lempicka and her muse, Rafaela, a girl she finds on the street and brings home to paint. The heady, hedonistic world of Paris in the 1920s is brought so vi
Martha Bryce
I loved this book but I am a francophile. Set in 1927, it is a beautiful look at the Jazz era in Paris and the lives of two women bound to each other forever.Rafaela Fano is very young Italian American woman, escaping from an arranged marriage to an Italian she has never met. On the trip to Italy, she jumps ship and heads to Paris. Rafaela doesn't know a word of French but has seen a creation by Coco Chanel and wants to be a part of that world. Out of work, down on her luck and likely to lose t ...more
At the age of 16, Rafaela Fano, born to immigrant parents and living in New York City, is promised in marriage to a young man in Italy whom she has never met. After spending the summer under the close eye of her grandmother, the two board a ship bound for Naples. Rafaela grieves for the familiar life she is leaving behind and worries about her unknown future. But after a week on board, her Nonna Gioia chokes on a chicken wing. Rafaela’s quick thinking saves Nonna Gioia’s life—and also gives her ...more
Great read. I love historical fiction and this book didn't disappoint. I knew nothing about the painter before I started reading, and that's my one regret.

There's so much beautiful imagery of Paris. Throughout the book I always had an image in my head: Avery is no stranger to detail and she uses them well. Her writing style flows wonderfully and made the book easy to read. I never once reread a passage because I was confused, rather I did some rereading because I thought the writing was fantast
This was a book club selection that I ended up skimming through. While I found parts of it interesting, overall, it didn't "grab me"...I had a difficult time relating to either of the characters, and the story seemed choppy. However, Avery was very skilled at imagery, and the book had some gorgeous prose:

I felt like glass: looked at and looked through.
What did he see when he saw me? It was as if my body were a sign pinned to my own back, a sign I myself couldn't read.
In the furnace of her en
Bending The Bookshelf
While not a book I would have been likely to stumble across on my own, I'm deeply indebted to G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead for providing me with the opportunity for an early read. Here we have a fictional romance between two historical women, Tamara de Lempicka (artist) and Rafaela (model/muse), set in that uneasy period between WWI and WWII.

Although I knew nothing about Tamara coming into the story, and even less about art, her history is absolutely fascinating. I suspect the story might carr
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topics  posts  views  last activity Bo...: The Last Nude: Second Half 2 56 Dec 27, 2012 12:44PM Bo...: The Last Nude: First Half (Chapters 1-11) 1 44 Dec 16, 2012 10:59AM  
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The only writer ever to have received the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Fiction twice, Ellis Avery is the author of two novels, a memoir, and a book of poetry. Her novels, The Last Nude (Riverhead 2012) and The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead 2006) have also received Lambda, Ohioana, and Golden Crown awards, and her work has been translated into six languages. She teaches fiction writi ...more
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“I found another girl to pose for Myrto and then I didn't think about Rafaela much, not until a spring day years later. Or rather, I thought about her with an occasional, impersonal pang. Have you ever had a favorite cafe close? It was like that.” 3 likes
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