Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

"Is there a woman left in Paris who sleeps with men?" asks one of the characters in Ellis Avery's latest novel, The Last Nude. A 17-year-old American, Rafaela Fano, is drawn into the decadent artistic social scene in Paris in 1927 when she models for Tamara de Lempicka and the two become lovers. Tamara and Rafaela are separated in age by over 10 years and there is an even greater gulf of power between them. Their affair does not end well, but it sure makes a good story!

Many well-known lesbians from that era make appearances -- Sylvia Beach, Djuna Barnes, Romaine Brooks and Gertrude Stein to name a few. Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Barnes' Nightwood would make excellent companion reads for The Last Nude.

Never having heard of Lempicka before, I went looking for images of her paintings online. The cool eroticism of Lempika's work is reflected in Avery's characterization of the painter. The book's jacket cover image is Lempicka's The Dream. The model is Rafaela. She now feels like a real person to me.

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