Nancy's Reviews > The Last Nude

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
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Jun 03, 13

bookshelves: historical, art-and-artists
Read from January 24 to 29, 2012

I was drawn to this book because I enjoy reading about the life and culture that influence an artist's work, but I was also wary of it because the novel's description seemed so much like a publicist's dream project:

. . . read about the decadent Parisian society between the wars;

. . . peek into the studio of Tamara de Limpicka as she creates her series of iconic Art Deco masterpieces;

. . . experience the pain of love and betrayal etc. etc. etc.

How wonderful it felt to be proven wrong. Somehow, Ellis Avery managed to hit all the marketing "hot buttons" without allowing her book to feel like it was strictly a commercial enterprise crafted around "what sells."

The portrayal of de Limpicka was vibrant and decidedly non-romantic and it was fascinating to reference images of the paintings that she described in the book. I don't know how much license Avery took in her descriptions of de Limpicka and her life, but she emerged in this book as a brutal, calculating, and very savvy business woman.

The aspect of the novel that will remain with me though was not the story of de Limpicka and her gorgeous paintings but the coming-of-age of her beautiful model. Generations of women who proceeded us were brought up to face a life with limited opportunity and very few options. Marry OR . . . De Lempicka's model refused an arranged marriage and escaped to Paris. The reality she faced, friendless, in a strange city was the source of the novel's heart and soul.
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Kumari You really hit the nail on the head when you said, "Marry OR . . . ." I think the book left me with the sense that women's options have always been limited (yes, they remain limited today, still). Looking at how Rafaela viewed their love as possible, but in that society, really it was not. The few women who did live a life together were quaint but oddities, at best.

Also, from that it leads one to realize how dominated women were then (and yes remain so today) by the institutional economics where men hold all of the money and power. Women are playthings that try to convince men to share with them. Even if it's an "ugly husband" or a disgusting old geezer fantasizing about his daughter who picks up a young poor girl her age to have sex with him for money. The money, meager as it is, is not something she can laugh at.


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