Sometimes I just don’t know how to start a review, so I will just jump in with both feet. I was not thrilled with Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. Was it because I generally really like the author, Francine Prose? Was it because I expected amazing things out of this complex novel about the years leading up to the Second World War in Paris? Was it because I wanted this novel to be so different than anything else i’ve read? I don’t really know.
The story of Lovers at the Chameleon Club is a little difficult to summarize due to the way it is told. It can best be described as epistolary; it is comprised of letters, biography excerpts, magazine articles and the like. In general, I like this kind of thing. The problem in this case was that I didn’t get a good feel for any of the characters.
This shouldn’t be the case when the main characters, in theory, should walk off the page. Gabor is a budding photographer with severe attachment to his parents who he has not seen in years. Lou is a cross dressing race car driver, turned spy. Both surround themselves with an amusing cast of characters who frequent the Chameleon Club, a bar for freaks and weirdos.
I must admit Lovers at the Chameleon Club did start to grow on me a little more about two thirds of the way through. In particular, Lou’s naive forays into espionage and later enemy interrogation were interesting. And I am a sucker for anything that has to with the French Resistance in WWII, so the smuggling of artists and intellectuals out of France intrigued me. But overall, while not being a complete fail, I would only give this book a 3/5.
Who would like this book? I read this book along side Half Blood Blues and the two share much in common. Both take place in the club scene in Paris at the outbreak of World War II. For that reason, readers interested in that period and scene may be interested in Lovers at the Chameleon Club. The portions of the novel dealing with the Berlin Olympics and Hitler’s use of athletic clubs were quite fascinating and insightful as well.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.