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Hottentot Venus: A Novel
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Hottentot Venus: A Novel

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  214 ratings  ·  37 reviews
It is Paris, 1815. An extraordinarily shaped South African girl known as the Hottentot Venus, dressed only in feathers and beads, swings from a crystal chandelier in the duchess of Berry’s ballroom. Below her, the audience shouts insults and pornographic obscenities. Among these spectators is Napoleon’s physician and the most famous naturalist in Europe, the Baron George C ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Anchor (first published 2003)
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Chance Maree

I have nothing but praise for this work. It is poetic, brutal, and empathetic--a reflection of the arrogance of the time, ghosts of which are active among us today. I picked the novel up in hope of understanding what it means to be a minority, mistreated, and enslaved--despite declarations of enlightenment and a prohibition of slavery. I can see why sensitivity to prejudices needs to be maintained, lest we forget how calloused, cruel, greedy, and dreadful people can be towards one another. Kind
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Lori
Well-written and incredibly thought-provoking. Throughout my reading of the book, I couldn't help but think about the exploitation of the scantily dressed women you see dancing in so many of today's music videos.
Mocha Girl
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Kathy
Such a sad, sad story, with that overwhelming feeling of impending tragedy. This author is great but she picks such sad and treagic figures about which to write. I have read her previous book on Sally Hemmings.

In this book, she really inhabits her character. Though this was an historical novel, it felt very modern, but was not anachronistic at all. Despite its simplicity, this is not an easy read. First, there is the overwhelming sense of dread - you just know that no good is going to come of th
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Shala Howell
I picked this book up a very long time ago at a bookstore that is now defunct. Chase-Riboud's novel tells the story of Sarah Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman who was exhibited as a freak show attraction in London and Paris in the early 1800s. I knew going in that this book was not going to be a fun read, and my expectations were fulfilled.

Sarah's story is every bit as painful, horrifying, and gut wrenching as I feared it would be. But it also comes with a surprisingly hefty side dish of dull. I found
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Lisa James
A fascinating book by the author of the Sally Hemings books... This was the novelized biography of The Hottentot Venus, a real "oddity" brought from her native South Africa to the UK in the late 1800's. Her life was short, & what happened to her after her death was shocking to say the least. I'm thankful she was eventually returned to her native country & laid to rest.
Krysia
During a conversation with my mom today about Perry and the Eskimos, I recalled this book and wanted to list it so my friends on here would read it.

This book illuminates the dehumanization of foreign people by scientists and pseudo-scientists who used them as curiosities. A wonderful historical novel.
Eileen
Disturbing true tale of a time in history where it was perfectly acceptable to exploit a person publicly for money. Very well written, sympathetic and eye opening.
Jeff
Moving historical, biographical fiction novel about race, ethics, and humanity. Although the ending is a little long-winded, it is a compelling character-driven book.
Dragonfly0628
Sarah Bartman is a strong, intelligent woman who is put through the unthinkable for absurd and obscure ends. She is an inspiration.
Valerie
In 1800s Europe, a young African girl is put on display as the Hottentot Venus.
Leena
Amazing story that exposes objectification.
Tristessa
This is a fabulous histographic metafictional recreation of the life of Saartjie Baartman from South Africa, a slave who travelled to England to be exhibited on account of her large steatopygia and elongated labia. Appealling to the Victorian obsession for freak shows (remember the Elephant Man), scientific enquiry (to support racist theory) and perverse sexual voyeurism, Saartjie is symbolic of the modern day beauty pageant which is a continuation of slave markets (bearing in mind in 1807 slave ...more
Jody
Barbara Chase-Rioud is a wonderful author. I fell in love with her "Sally Hemmings" and "The Presidents Daughter", bout the slave mistress of Thomas Jefferson and their children. Her writing style is beautiful, lyrical and her descrptions bring you right into the book.

I choose to give 5 stars to this book, not so much because I loved it, I didn't. It disturbed me on several levels, but the ideas and the caring with which the author writes about this "freak of nature" is so loving and intuitive.
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Kellie
The story line of Hottentot Venus was very good and an interesting read! However I did not care for the way in which Barbara Chase-Riboud used historical figures. She made great scientists like George Cuvier seem like a horny perverted obsessed man. She also would randomly throw in Napoleon Bonaparte, Jane Austin, and Charles Darwin. I think the author trying to make her novel a historical fiction would have worked out better if she relied on connecting historical events to her story and not giv ...more
Ape
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Paige Turner
It is labeled a novel, but based on a true story. A very thought provoking, and sad, story. Would she have been better off staying in her village, with the Ceazar family, on her own in Europe, etc? It was interesting to have the narrator of each chapter change and have to figure out which character it was that was speaking.
Sheryl
Fascinating story, and horribly tedious writing. I would recommend that someone google the topic and spend 15 minutes -- then you'll know everything the book presented and you won't be frustrated.
Amanda
A beautifully written and well-researched fictionalized historical account. Chase-Riboud not only manages to give a believable narrative of the real Saartjie Baartman, but also weaves her story seamlessly with the 19th century Europe that both exploited and pitied her. A number of connections to historical figures (real or invented) are sprinkled throughout the story including Napolean, Jacques-Louis David, Charles Darwin and even Jane Austen. Fascinating but also a sad portrait of humanity
Michael
Great historical not-so-fiction and important (though implicit) connections to contemporary issues with the diaspora.
Kellie
This was probably one of the worst books I have ever read. It made me so mad. I felt the author was writing this story for Political purposes only. She painted certain races in various lights that were very unappealing.
I was very disappointed in this depiction of an African American woman who was put on side show display in Europe in the 19th century.
Caroline Alicia
I think I first heard of Sarah, rather Ssehura was when her remains were returned to africa in sometime in 01, 02.

What I really liked about this novel is that it didn't end with Ssehura's death, it continued on to tell of what happened to both those who abused and helped her. Also, what become of her in the end.
Christopher
Utterly heart-wrenching! Seeing the monstrosity of humanity through Saartjie's eyes left me in tears more than once. I loved the conversation at the end between Tiedeman and Darwin. This books brings up many of the same feelings as did Uncle Tom's Cabin, which I also love. READ THIS BOOK!!!!
Armena
Jul 26, 2007 Armena rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
I got this book as a gift because someone told me I was shaped physically like the women in this text, I was insulted, however after reading this book i gained a new level of appreciation for my shape and I'm honor to be associated with such extraordinary women.
Lana
Sep 24, 2009 Lana added it
Excellent read for any young African American teenager who has a poor self body image. Our bodies have been on display and either ridiculed or exploited by mainstream media that our young girls, according to the CDC, are leading in anoxeria.
Rachel Scollon
Strangely bad. Parts of it are cobbled together out of research notes. Deliberately so, according to the Acknowledgements, but it just doesn't work. And over and over, Chase-Riboud gives way to the temptation to belabor the obvious.
Divida
This book was intriguing and heartbreaking at the same time. Base on a historical figure, the book was oftentimes hard to read. People who are of the mindset that degrading women is acceptable should be required to read this book.
Kimberly
It was all right. Good story, but it wasn't easy to keep up with who was talking or even IF someone was actually talking. I wouldn't recommend it, but feel free to read it if you're interested. *chuckles*
Sophia Walker
This book made me sad. I was disturbed by the perceptions of blacks but realize that some people still feel that way today. The main character lived a horrible life and her death was no better.
Carol
Heartbreaking story of Saartjie Baartman, South African Hottentot woman taken to England under false pretense of marriage, but in reality to be gawked at a freakshow.
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An American novelist, poet, sculptor and visual artist, perhaps best known for her historical fiction. Much of her work has explored themes related to slavery and exploitation of women.

Chase-Riboud attained international recognition with the publication of her first novel, Sally Hemings, in 1979. The novel has been described as the "first full blown imagining" of Hemings' life as a slave and her r
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More about Barbara Chase-Riboud...
Sally Hemings The President's Daughter Valide: A Novel of the Harem Echo of Lions Everytime a Knot is Undone, a God is Released: Collected and New Poems 1974-2011

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