Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Hottentot Venus: A Novel” as Want to Read:
Hottentot Venus: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Hottentot Venus: A Novel

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  186 ratings  ·  33 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)
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 Hottentot Venus, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Hottentot Venus

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 472)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Bartman is a strong, intelligent woman who is put through the unthinkable for absurd and obscure ends. She is an inspiration.
In 1800s Europe, a young African girl is put on display as the Hottentot Venus.
Amazing story that exposes objectification.
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
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....more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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.
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
Great historical not-so-fiction and important (though implicit) connections to contemporary issues with the diaspora.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
Feb 03, 2013 Divida added it
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.
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.
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.
Did not care too much for this story. Thought I would have found it interestind due to South Africa and the
Mar 11, 2012 Liz marked it as to-read
First person narrative isn't my favorite, and it's just not holding me right now. I may try again later.
Nov 27, 2011 Angela added it
Shelves: read-in-2011
This book broke my heart in so many ways I can't even rate it. It was excellent. I would never read it again.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 16 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Douglass' Women
  • An Unproductive Woman
  • The Trespass
  • The Patient's Eyes
  • Gloria
  • The Fourth Queen
  • A Million Nightingales
  • Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems
  • Sex Wars: A Novel of Gilded Age New York
  • The Journal of Dora Damage
  • When She Was White: The True Story of a Family Divided By Race
  • She Rises
  • Fire in the Streets (The Rock and the River, #2)
  • The Treasure of Montségur: A Novel of the Cathars
  • Still She Haunts Me
  • Beautiful Lies
  • The Wrong Blood
  • Against a Crimson Sky (The Poland Trilogy, # 2)
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...more
More about Barbara Chase-Riboud...
Sally Hemings The President's Daughter Valide: A Novel of the Harem Echo of Lions Sally Hemings: A Novel

Share This Book