Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932” as Want to Read:
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  3,996 Ratings  ·  596 Reviews
A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, set in Paris from the late 1920s into the dark years of World War II, that explores the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself

Emerging from the austerity and deprivation of the Great War, Paris in the 1920s shimmer
...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Harper (first published 2014)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mel
Apr 25, 2014 Mel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hx-fic, top-picks
First, I recommend reading the author's Editorial Review, posted on the Amazon site, for some fascinating information -- Ripley's Believe It or Not fascinating. Francine Prose writes about an actual black and white photo she saw at an exhibition that served as the inspiration for this novel: "Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932", by famous Hungarian photographer Brassaï, taken at club Le Monocle in Montmartre, Paris. The provocative photo shows a pair of female lovers sharing a table, one dressed ...more
Ruthie
May 13, 2014 Ruthie rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
I really wanted to love this book, I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn't work for me. Too many narrators (reliable or not), too long, too repetitive, and often too boring. I was distracted by the "based on real people but not really" issue. Without a a Forward or an Afterward I found myself spending frustrating amounts of time trying to ascertain what was true, almost true and what was pure fiction. For some it may not matter, for me, when the subject matter is the Holocaust, the ...more
Jill
Jan 31, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
Early on in Francine Prose’s richly imagined and intricately constructed tour de force, Yvonne – the proprietress of the Parisian Chameleon Club –tells a story about her pet lizard, Darius. “One night I was working out front. My friend, a German admiral whose name you would know, let himself into my office and put my darling Darius on my paisley shawl. He died, exhausted by the strain of turning all those colors.”

History – and the people who compose it – is itself a chameleon, subject to multipl
...more
Ron Charles
Pssst. Looking for a good read? Check out the Chameleon Club in Montparnasse. Go alone — or with someone you trust. Step down a few stairs, knock on the door and whisper the password: “Police! Open up!”

Welcome to “Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.” Inside these smoky pages you’ll find an oasis of ribald humor, sexual transgression and military intrigue. Our host, Yvonne, is a Hungarian singer with a pet lizard and a weakness for sailors. Play nice and she’ll let you mingle with one of Eu
...more
Abby
Jun 04, 2014 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
In Francine Prose's popular book about reading and writing, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, she advocates “close reading.” Only by slowing down and carefully reading every word can we understand what is said and what is not said – the nuances of meaning that the writer has worked so hard to put into every word and into the spaces between the words. That's good advice when reading any serious writer and of course when reading Prose. ( ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 01, 2014 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
The locus of Francine Prose’s sterling new book is the fictional Chameleon Club in Paris (Montparnasse), and even more specifically, a picture of two female lovers at the club taken in 1932 (the eponymous “Lovers at the Chameleon Club”) by Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, who resides in Paris. The story takes place primarily in the years leading up to and including WW II, although the shifting narrative perspectives also encompass contemporary time reflecting back to that period. Paris comes ...more
Chaitra
It took me a godawful number of days to finish this book, so I think it's safe to say The Lovers didn't exactly hook me. I don't think the book ever made up its mind what it was about - the degeneracy (or something) of pre-World War II Paris or about a resentful, unloved woman who wanted nothing more than to be (like) a man, or about the awesome French Resistance during WWII generally kicking Nazi and collaborators' asses. It's got some of everything, and nothing stands out.

I would have given i
...more
Ellie
May 02, 2014 Ellie rated it really liked it
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose is an extremely well-crafted book, ostensibly about a cross-dressing, gender fluid club in, you guessed it, Paris, 1932. The title comes from a photograph taken by one of the book's protagonist, Gabor. The story is only partially about gender issues in a time not very understanding but also about Hitler, the drive for submission, courage, art, and love in many different forms.

I admired the book but didn't quite like it. I find Prose's to
...more
Ayelet Waldman
Jun 24, 2014 Ayelet Waldman rated it liked it
I swear I'm not being arrogant (I'm far too full of self-loathing for that) when I say that my World War 2 related book is simply better than this one.
Joe M
Apr 01, 2014 Joe M rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-in-2014
I'm a sucker for this era and setting, so thanks HarperCollins and Goodreads for the review copy!

(3.5 but I'm rounding up to 4) Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 is a bright and raucous novel, cleverly unveiled through a variety of voices, sources, and questionably reliable perspectives. There are letters home from the struggling photographer Gabor, the brooding dispatches of Lionel Maine, a bitter yet hilarious ex-pat, and the narratives of the rich and dazzling Baroness, matriarch of th
...more
Offbalance
May 08, 2014 Offbalance rated it liked it
Here's the thing - at the halfway mark, this book was going to get a five-star review. I loved the multiple-perspective storytelling. I loved the epistolary structure. And mostly, I loved the build-up to the promised struggles and horrors to come after the sparkling days of pre-WWII Paris. But then, I kept reading, and instead of a climax, I got an anti-climax instead.

I don't know if Prose came up against a deadline or wrote herself into a corner, but what she was building up to just didn't del
...more
Magdelanye
This complex litany of voices rewards the attentive reader with a multitude of perspectives on events that unfolded into the Occupation of Paris in WWII. By giving each of her selected main characters a voice in the first person, FP allows us to witness the moral trajectory of those under the particular pressure of the times, and the evolution, and the impact, of their choices.

This is a difficult feat for a writer to pull off, the authorial voice often drowning out the various voices that would
...more
Carol
Aug 17, 2014 Carol rated it liked it
I wonder if even a master novelist like Prose can get tripped up when writing about a different time, especially one that many of us have fully imagined in our heads. The characters she creates are probably close enough to how these various types of people actually were, so I have no problem with her creating fake people to stand in for real ones -- and interact with real people of the time.

I am actually disappointed most when her characters talk. It's as if Prose, not knowing how these various
...more
Kevin (sumptuousbooks)
If I could give that book zero stares I would do. It was so bad. I DNFed the book after 5%. So I'm only going to review those.

+ SPOILER +

First there is one thing I liked and one I didn't mind. The thing I liked is that the author used a letter and a photograph by the same person to start their story with. That letter talked about how the Chameleon Club really was because it existed. And the photography shows 2 lesbians (it's not shown just described). That's how the story starts. And so I thoug
...more
Anna
Dec 04, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sexuality, wwii
This is not a comfortable novel to read at the present time. Despite the cover and title, it isn’t a romance at all. It is, in fact, a depiction of the creeping menace of fascism and how it encroaches on people’s lives. The structure of the narrative is interesting, as it consists of various documents in which each writer tells their own version of a single story. This story centres on Lou Villars, who is not given her own voice in the narrative. As the author’s afterword states, she is based qu ...more
Terri Jacobson
May 25, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
This novel provided an incredible read for me. The story takes place in France during the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1940s, the time when fascism was coming to the fore and taking over Europe. The characters are unusual and diverse. The story revolves around one character, Lou Villars, who is a cross-dressing lesbian. The other characters include a Hungarian photographer, a baroness, an American writer/reporter, and a woman who runs a nightclub called the Chameleon Club. This club attracts cross- ...more
Lisa
Apr 24, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it
Vaguely disappointing. The story was interesting, and the manner of telling it, from varied points of view, should have really sparked it. I mean, a chronically lovelorn and disappointed cross-dressing French patriot turned Nazi collaborator? With supporting characters that included a Brassai-like photographer of Paris' seamier side, a sexy but celibate countess, and a Henry Miller type literary rake who managed to cash in on his disappointment with the bright lights of late 1930s Paris, a neuro ...more
Suzanne Stroh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robert Warren
Jun 10, 2014 Robert Warren rated it really liked it
In the preface of Francine Prose's astonishing Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, the author tells how a Brassai photograph, "Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932," inspired her novel about "art, love, evil, money, auto racing, espionage, insomnia, seduction and betrayal–and the way that history changes depending on who tells it." That sounds comprehensive and fascinating, but Lovers at the Chameleon Club is so much more: part loving critique of human frailty, part celebration of heroism, p ...more
Mary Lins
Mar 03, 2014 Mary Lins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
I’ve been a fan of Francine Prose since reading her wonderful and witty novel, “Blue Angel”, many years ago. Her latest, “Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932” is magnificent; full of wonderful characters, unusually quirky settings, and strong (some more reliable than others) narrative voices.

The novel proffers a unique WWII story told from various perspectives. Gabor Tsenyi is a young Hungarian photographer struggling to make a name for himself in the Parisian art scene. His patroness is Li
...more
Linda Robinson
Jul 06, 2014 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing
A review on goodreads advised not to skip the preface in the book. There is no preface in this book and I searched the web for what that bit might have contained. Perhaps the preface was an essay on the Mystery of Evil, perhaps it shared the true story of a woman formed, then forged by time and events. The mention of a missing preface about Evil set the stage in time for this book. 1934 in Paris, the American writer Lionel Maine describes the scene. "Unemployment, inflation, mass bankruptcy, imm ...more
Stephanie
May 04, 2014 Stephanie rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abbey
May 18, 2015 Abbey rated it really liked it
Maybe more of a 3.5, but it was an impressive look at one of the most fascinating eras in Paris. Each perspective was unique and brought something new to the story, and though it was a bit slow, I enjoyed it! This may be the start of a tradition where I read books set in Paris every May...
Michael
Jan 29, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
Sometimes the story exceeds the abilities of the teller. Francine Prose is a talented writer, but her imaginative reconstruction of the life of the French bisexual athlete and traitor Violette Morris (renamed Lou Villars in the historical novel) is less successful than it could have been. Prose originally considered writing a biography of Morris but decided that a fictionalized account offered more possibilities. Despite the more or less accurate evocation of the Paris of the years leading up to ...more
Barbara
Jun 12, 2014 Barbara rated it really liked it
Inspired by the portrait “Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1931” taken by Hungarian photographer Brassai, Francine Prose takes poetic license to write this historical fiction novel. Prose uses real people to create her characters. In the novel, Gabor Tsenyi is based on Brassai’s life in Paris. Brassi did take portraits of the seedier side of nighttime Paris in addition to the High Society of Paris. Brassi became friends with American author Henry Miller who is loosely portrayed by the character Lio ...more
Dehlia
Feb 19, 2015 Dehlia rated it liked it
Oh, Kerri Miller, you really sold me on this, and let me down. I love historical fiction, especially WWII. I heard an in-depth interview with F. Prose on MPR over a year ago and was immediately interested in reading this book. It sounded just incredible and unbelievable, yet based on true events. I got it on my kindle, intentionally, which is always an obstacle as I prefer paper pages. Is that what set me up for disappointment? I don't think so. I brought it on my trip to Machu Picchu, many long ...more
Sally Koslow
Jul 17, 2014 Sally Koslow rated it it was amazing
Presented through diary entries, letters, memoir and biography chapters and newspaper articles, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 retells the exploits of a circle of bohemian Parisians—and a few Nazis—linked by their connection to a tawdry nightclub featuring acts by cross-dressers. Francine Prose’s characters—the novel features about eight voices—are so artfully crafted you will be surprised to find, when you inevitably Google them, that they are drawn from her imagination and that this ...more
Sara
Jan 04, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt, 2015
3.5 stars.

Frustrating, ambitious, and well worth reading, albeit with some pretty serious caveats. I’m not sure why Prose chose an epistolary format as Lou’s dodgy biographer provides more than enough to dig into her turn toward the dark side. And maybe I just enjoy historical novels better when they unfold through minutia and build tension with small details. There's too little of this in the first 200 pages; nearly every single missive or diary entry is full of generic gushing for the wonder o
...more
Jessica
Dec 31, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc-egalley
Lovers at the Chameleon Club excels as an experiment with the format of the novel. It's written as a sort-of biography of the first female French race car driver-turned-Nazi spy Lou Villars, and is constructed mainly out of the supposed source material for said biography: the letters, journal entries, and memoirs of her social circle, as well as some reflections by the biographer putting it all together. It's wildly inventive, and gives Prose a unique opportunity to examine Lou's story from the ...more
Steph
Some nice turns of phrase, particularly about what it is to be a stranger in a foreign land, where everything is exotic and wondrous. I also felt the device of using various different sources to tell the story of Lou and the people of the Chameleon Club was interesting, the way the narrative overlay and shed light on one another, while still being independent.

But historical fiction isn't my jam, and I have no real interest in WWII or that period so I can't say I found this one riveting. I never
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2017 Reading Chal...: There's a Reason I Didn't Finish This One 2 43 Oct 30, 2015 06:08AM  
  • The Fan-Maker's Inquisition: A Novel of the Marquis de Sade
  • Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends Through the Great War
  • Curiosity
  • Love & Treasure
  • The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov
  • Mount Terminus
  • Night in Shanghai
  • In Paradise
  • The Search for Heinrich Schlögel
  • Perla
  • The Book of Aron
  • All Our Names
  • In the Land of Armadillos: Stories
  • The Fair Fight
  • It's Not Love, It's Just Paris
  • Watergate
  • The Afterlife of Stars
  • Off Course
12180
Francine Prose (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American novelist. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968, and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. She has sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, and her novel Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is now teaching at Bard College.

For
...more
More about Francine Prose...

Share This Book



“There are some people who remain your best friends even if you haven’t seen them for ages, and others with whom you start from scratch every time.” 5 likes
“It is the rarest of qualities: to feel something—anything—for someone beside yourself. And in my experience it is rarer still to have empathy for people you don’t know.” 4 likes
More quotes…