BLACK VENUS, by James MacManus
Beaudelaire in nineteenth century Paris- a Bohemian haven for artists...
Living off his inheritance, Beaudelaire is an aspiring poet who lives his life high on late nights filled with alcohol, drugs and ladies. Impeccably dressed, this distinguished-looking young man in his early twenties enjoys his nights out on the town- and especially this particular cabaret where he meets the love, and demise, of his life.
Jeanne Duval escaped Haiti with high hopes of becoming a famous singer. Born from the relationship of a slave and her white master, Jeanne would endure the hardships of non-acceptance by both races. She flees Haiti at a tender age when she witnesses her mother being brutally attacked by a gang of men.
In Paris, Jeanne was a night club singer whose sultry voice lured men into buying more drinks. The fact that she was extraordinarily beautiful, strong minded, aloof, sultry and exotic, made Jeanne all the more desirable. Along comes Beaudelaire to win her heart, mind and soul. Theirs however, was not a match made in heaven...
Love aside, Jeanne was the poet's muse. And perhaps the fact that she never enjoyed or gave much credit to his work, that in itself may have been motivation enough to send Beaudelaire to the limits of his passion. That, unfortunately for him was carried through to his poetry- and consequently to a public trial denouncing his work as obscene.
There was nothing ordinary about their relationship. Theirs was an all consuming rage that bordered infinite carnal desire with mind games- all that, lived through poverty, drugs, alcohol, adultery, and ultimately, betrayal. His muse, his love and decidedly in more ways than one; his destruction.
This was a captivating novel that shed light on more than just what we already knew on Beaudelaire. But what I appreciated most was this new portrayal of history's much maligned Jeanne Duval. James MacManus brought forth a side of Jeanne that was easier to understand and even have compassion for.
BLACK VENUS is an exquisite read.