Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Singing the praises of The Queen of the Night

On my last library haul, I picked up a book that I had on hold, The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, and just this past weekend, I stayed up late and woke up early the next morning to finish reading it.

 Since there was another hold on the book, I wasn't able to renew it again and after turning that last page, I am glad to have returned it in order to let someone else share the glorious experience of this amazing novel.

The leading lady of the story is Lilliet, a famous opera singer in Paris of 1882 who is approached by a writer whose new novel is about to be adapted for the stage. He asks her to take the lead role, which would make this a stand out moment in her career. However, upon reading the book, she realizes that this is a thinly disguised version of her life story and that someone from her past must be setting a trap for her.

To tell anymore than that would only spoil the numerous surprises that Lilliet's tale has in store for you. I've read and heard many wonderful reviews of this book and for once, the hype is true.

This is one of the best books of the year and I'm sorry that I didn't read it sooner in order to put it on my Best of 2016 list. Well, to make up for that, I have put together a playlist of songs that I feel highlight the themes of the book very well. Granted, these are pop songs and the music featured in TQOTN is in the opera category but the same emotional levels can be felt in both genres:

LOVE: Romance is a major part of the book, both the lack of true love and the deep longing that authentic love gives Lilliet and the other characters in her life. At one point in her journey, Lilliet must go through the motions of a love affair with a man she despises, due to his own obsession with her and other forces at work.

To express that false front, Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" is suitable, particularly since the man that she is being made to be seen as his lover is in possession of a iconic piece of jewelry given to Lilliet by the Emperor of France and yes, it is in the shape of a rose:

Lilliet does have a true love, however, a composer who is caught in several entanglements himself that makes it difficult to openly be with her. That bittersweet relationship can be showcased by one of the songs that Whitney Houston performed for The Bodyguard, "Run to You". She is no stranger to running for her life yet taking him along with her proves to be harder than she thought or planned:

FREEDOM: As much as she does want a permanent home, Lilliet often feels more content when finding a way to choose her own fate and that is usually done by shaking off whatever shackles are placed upon her. Kelly Clarkson might not seem operatic but "Miss Independent" does describe our heroine rather well in this department there:

IDENTITY: It's not a spoiler to say that Lilliet is not the real name of our main character and over the course of the story, she changes names and personae with the near ease and grace of X-Men's best known shapeshifter Mystique. Those shifts in identity are at times necessary to her survival but they do take a toll on her there. To channel that struggle, I think Lady Gaga sings it best with "Perfect Illusion":

Well, I hope that my musical picks do the book justice and that anyone out there in need of a gorgeously immersive read will find this book the answer to their prayers.

The Queen of the Night is also out in paperback, so it would make for a great holiday gift(and no, not being paid to say so, just sharing the love).  If you love historical fiction, music or strong female characters, this book is pretty much tailor made for you and worth passing on.

Since any true diva ought to have a closing number, let me add a finale from the Queen of Disco that I sincerely believe Lilliet Berne would appreciate,especially since she always did like the chance to dance:

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