The Last Nude
A stunning story of love, sexual obsession, treachery, and tragedy, about an artist and her most famous muse in Paris between the World Wars.Paris, 1927. In the heady years before the crash, financiers drape their mistresses in Chanel, while expatriates flock to the avant-garde bookshop Shakespeare and Company. One day in July, a young American named Rafaela Fano gets into the car of a coolly dazzling stranger, the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka.Struggling to halt a downward slide toward prostitution, Rafaela agrees to model for the artist, a dispossessed Saint Petersburg aristocrat with a murky past. The two become lovers, and Rafaela inspires Tamara's most iconic Jazz Age images, among them her most accomplished—and coveted—works of art. A season as the painter's muse teaches Rafaela some hard lessons: Tamara is a cocktail of raw hunger and glittering artifice. And all the while, their romantic idyll is threatened by history's darkening tide.Inspired by real events in de Lempicka's history, The Last Nude is a tour de force of historical imagination. Avery gives the reader a tantalizing window into a lost Paris, an age already vanishing as the inexorable forces of history close in on two tangled lives. Spellbinding and provocative, The Last Nude is a novel about genius and craft, love and desire, regret, and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.

The Last Nude Details

TitleThe Last Nude
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 5th, 2012
PublisherRiverhead
ISBN-139781594488139
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Art, LGBT, GLBT, Queer, Lesbian, Cultural, France, Literary Fiction, Novels

The Last Nude Review

  • Kristen Hovet
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't given five stars to a book in a long time, so that's something! This was such a beautiful book to read. I loved the subtle, smooth writing style, the descriptions of everyday objects and happenings, the way the characters' eyes opened in different ways...I loved all of it. I even loved the switch of perspective at the end -- which, judging from many reviews, most people did not like or were uncomfortable with -- where we enter the mind of the person in the story whom we most come to re I haven't given five stars to a book in a long time, so that's something! This was such a beautiful book to read. I loved the subtle, smooth writing style, the descriptions of everyday objects and happenings, the way the characters' eyes opened in different ways...I loved all of it. I even loved the switch of perspective at the end -- which, judging from many reviews, most people did not like or were uncomfortable with -- where we enter the mind of the person in the story whom we most come to revile. I love when the "bad" characters get to tell their side, when they become less two-dimensional and more human. We see them -- like a painting or photograph we might not have seen for many years -- in a different light. I was so moved my the descriptions of the paintings, that I frequently found myself visiting a website showcasing all of Tamara de Lempicka's work. I did this at least four times during different parts of the novel. I would click through them, fascinated by the stories each one tells. (There are at least four of de Lempicka's paintings that I would love to have on my walls.) I love how Avery brought these human beings to life, while adding many imaginative and bittersweet twists.
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  • Holly Weiss
    January 1, 1970
    When is a muse an inspiration and when is she a plaything? The distinction is hazy in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude.1927 Paris, Rafaela only wants a hundred francs to buy a black dress so she can take over her flat mate’s department store job. In danger of falling into prostitution, she meets Tamara De Lempicka, painter of exotic, sexy Art Deco, and poses for several paintings.Although outside the parameters of what I usually read, this period piece is well written and sensual. The writer skillful When is a muse an inspiration and when is she a plaything? The distinction is hazy in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude.1927 Paris, Rafaela only wants a hundred francs to buy a black dress so she can take over her flat mate’s department store job. In danger of falling into prostitution, she meets Tamara De Lempicka, painter of exotic, sexy Art Deco, and poses for several paintings.Although outside the parameters of what I usually read, this period piece is well written and sensual. The writer skillfully paints the decadent lifestyle of artists of the time. The passion of the two women grows as does their disparate outlooks on life. Characters are well defined. We grow to despise the self-centered, manipulative Lempicka and empathize with Rafaela’s lost naiveté. Readers will glimpse the artistic culture of 1920s Paris and enter the world of erotic lesbianism. The book ends with dangling threads as it suddenly abandons the women’s relationship to finish Lempicka’s story.Ellis Avery, inspired by a 1927 Lempicka oil painting called, Beautiful Rafaela, recreates their relationship in her second historical fiction novel. Another painting from their affair, The Dream is the cover art for the book. In an interview, Avery explains that Jazz Age Paris provided the “environment in which a number of different kinds of romantic and sexual relationships between women flourished in a way they rarely had before.” Ms. Avery took a weeklong intensive figure-painting class to learn what it’s like on the other side of the brush.Penguin’s Riverhead Books Division graciously supplied the advance review copy for my unbiased opinion. The book releases January 5, 2012.Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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  • christa
    January 1, 1970
    Historical fiction is, essentially, literary fan fiction. It’s the literary part that gives it more cred than “Friday Night Lights” superfans hanging out on a bulletin board dreamily considering what if Julie Taylor came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her lips flushed and red, her skin dewy, and found Tim Riggins, primed, and sweating Red Stripe from his pores into her duvet. But at it’s core it is still fan fiction, with a high percentage of words spelled correctly and void of emoticon Historical fiction is, essentially, literary fan fiction. It’s the literary part that gives it more cred than “Friday Night Lights” superfans hanging out on a bulletin board dreamily considering what if Julie Taylor came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her lips flushed and red, her skin dewy, and found Tim Riggins, primed, and sweating Red Stripe from his pores into her duvet. But at it’s core it is still fan fiction, with a high percentage of words spelled correctly and void of emoticons and poorly-written sex scenes.With “The Last Nude,” Ellis Avery considers the subject of 1920s art deco artist Tamara De Lempicka’s six-painting Rafaela series. The art deco portraits star a heavy-lidded woman with soft rounds of flesh, all red scarves and lipsticks and shading. She was one of many women De Lempicka painted and, of course, with whom the artist got all deep sighs and panty. The novel is about their blip of a relationship set in the edgy, ex-pat heavy, Jazz Era in Paris and features cameos from some the eras major players including Violette Morris, a female boxer turned Nazi informer, and Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Company, publishers of “Ulysses.” Rafaela is an American girl who is en route to Italy for an arranged marriage when she jumps ship with a creeper to forge a life for herself in Paris instead. She is intrigued by a Coco Chanel dress she saw once and resorts to doling out sexual favors in exchange for a new life. She goes a bit wild-child, dancing on tables and diddling married men with her roommate Gin. De Lempicka finds the girl in a seedy prostitute hangout. Rafaela is looking for a friend; De Lempicka is looking for a model. At first Rafaela is a substitute for a similarly shaped model, a commission who has left town. But De Lempicka moves on to Rafaela as a subject and the work knocks the socks off art patrons. The story, told mostly from Rafaela’s perspective, is gripping-ish. Lots of lounging and grape eating, followed by messing up the sheets. After spending sexual energy as almost a job or a way of staying afloat, Rafaela finds someone she enjoys screwing and falls hard for the artist, 10 years her senior. Unfortunately, artists. De Lempicka might be walking the walk of love, but she is looking out for numero uno and pitting patron versus patron, with Rafaela as a pawn. Unfortunately, the last fourth of the book shifts voices in a way that feels like staying a bit too long at the party. The now aged artist considers her past and has her say on what it all meant. What worked in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” -- monologues by Hemingway, glimpses of Salvidor Dali -- comes across as hokey and distracting. Rafaela’s new found friend, and eventual savior, is a character named Anson. He’s a sportswriter turned go-fer for a private investigator. He is shades of Hemingway. He is dissing F. Scott Fitzgerald and fending off Rafaela’s advances with a vague medical situation caused in the war. A wife and a girlfriend. It’s all kind of blerg. Paula McLain did it better with her account of Hadley Richardson in the novel “The Paris Wife.” On the other hand, “The Last Nude” is a good way to dig into the work of De Lempicka and inspires the same artistic curiosity as Steve Martin’s novel “An Object of Beauty.” That alone makes this a worthwhile read.
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  • C.W.
    January 1, 1970
    With razor-sharp prose and an unapologetic lack of sentimentality, THE LAST NUDE depicts a pivotal time in 1920s Paris, during the life of the acclaimed Art Deco painter, Tamara Lempicka, and her tumultuous affair with an American-born teenage muse, Rafaela, immortalized in Lempicka's work, "La Bella Rafaela." Told almost entirely in Rafaela's jaded yet inherently naive voice, we enter the linseed-scented studio and hedonistic lifestyle of the enigmatic Tamara, whose bisexuality and obscure past With razor-sharp prose and an unapologetic lack of sentimentality, THE LAST NUDE depicts a pivotal time in 1920s Paris, during the life of the acclaimed Art Deco painter, Tamara Lempicka, and her tumultuous affair with an American-born teenage muse, Rafaela, immortalized in Lempicka's work, "La Bella Rafaela." Told almost entirely in Rafaela's jaded yet inherently naive voice, we enter the linseed-scented studio and hedonistic lifestyle of the enigmatic Tamara, whose bisexuality and obscure past lends her an irresistible mystique. At only fifteen years of age, Rafaela has fled her New York City home and staid disappointments of her family to join the restless youth milling about the City of Light. She meets such iconic figures as Sylvia Beach, founder of the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, and other society figures as she becomes both Tamara's principal model and lover, her own ambivalent feelings toward sex awakened to a fever-pitch by Tamara's robust, glossy depictions of her on canvas. But Tamara is far more than she seems, and Rafaela, despite her street-wise veneer, becomes lost in a web of the artist's design, unaware that as she dreams of love everlasting, Tamara strives only for recognition and security at any cost.Ellis Avery is an exceptionally talented and under-appreciated writer whose prior novel "The Teahouse Fire" offered a lush portrayal of Japan. Here, she is in her element: THE LAST NUDE is almost terse yet also deeply evocative, unflinching in its paucity of florid description and searing in its focus on two women from two different worlds, whose passionate collision sets off what, in retrospect, becomes an inevitable chain of events. While Rafaela dominates the narrative, Tamara's presence is inescapable. Sleek as a panther, her long fingers paint-spattered and her nerve cold as the sculpted drapery of her portraits, she embodies the Paris she inhabits - where what you pretend to be is more important than who you are, and everything has its price. In a refreshing departure from stories of tortured artists suffering for their craft, Tamara exudes ambition and charisma. She knows what she has, and how to sell it. Her interactions with Rafaela, whose adoration careens against the slow-burning, ultimately crushing realization that her lover has claws, are riveting, sexy, and true to life.The last part of the novel offers a glimpse into Tamara's later years, as a retrospective of her work launches her into new-found appreciation; the contrast with what has come before is masterful and chilling, a fitting conclusion to a love story that cannot have a happy ending yet lingers in our memory, as haunting as those who lived it.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    This book was divided in to two parts..the first 80% was told from the viewpoint of Rafaela, a 17 year old runaway who has been prostituting herself to unattractive, wealthy men to get by in 1920's Paris. She meets female painter Tamara, who offers her money to pose nude. They begin a sexual relationship, which Rafaela believes is a love affair...however, she finds out that Tamara has been cruelly plotting behind her back to win the affections of a Baron and become his wife. They have a telling, This book was divided in to two parts..the first 80% was told from the viewpoint of Rafaela, a 17 year old runaway who has been prostituting herself to unattractive, wealthy men to get by in 1920's Paris. She meets female painter Tamara, who offers her money to pose nude. They begin a sexual relationship, which Rafaela believes is a love affair...however, she finds out that Tamara has been cruelly plotting behind her back to win the affections of a Baron and become his wife. They have a telling, dramatic fight where Tamara laughs at Rafaela and says "Do you think I would marry you? You can not make me a baroness! You can not give me a child" and Rafaela is stunned to learn that she has been used by a woman in the same way she's been used by men. Had that been the whole book, I would have given it four stars, because Rafaela's tale is absorbing and complicated and the descriptions of the decadent Parisian lifestyle is spot on...but the end of the book for some confusing reason switches to Tamara's point of view as an old woman and it's just senile rambling about her past, where you see she was even more manipulative than imagined. this part of the book really took away from the novel. It should have ended with Rafaela's story.
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  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    January 1, 1970
    I've read many artistic historical fiction novels, but this is the first I've read from a female artist perspective. And it's an artist with whom I am not at all familiar.I was set on giving this book a 3.5-4 stars and then Part 2 hit. I hated Part 2 audio version. It may have physically read better. Also I didn't have any notes to tell me how much of the plot was based upon fact.
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  • Penny
    January 1, 1970
    Undoubtedly, this was a very distinguishable read. As in strikingly unique and beautiful. Ellis Avery manages to combine two of my favorite types of prose: the lyrical one and the visceral one. Clearly, the result is explosive. Paragraphs with incredible intimist sentences and at the same time, direct, dried and raw conversations - quite a dangerous combination. But it can be wonderful.In part I (which takes almost 80% of the story), the narrative is from Rafaela's point of view. She's a 17 year Undoubtedly, this was a very distinguishable read. As in strikingly unique and beautiful. Ellis Avery manages to combine two of my favorite types of prose: the lyrical one and the visceral one. Clearly, the result is explosive. Paragraphs with incredible intimist sentences and at the same time, direct, dried and raw conversations - quite a dangerous combination. But it can be wonderful.In part I (which takes almost 80% of the story), the narrative is from Rafaela's point of view. She's a 17 year old american who fled an arranged marriage, to end up in Paris in the second half of the 1920s. Yep, I was fascinated with Rafaela's voice. It can be stated that she's ingenuous in many aspects. However, I do not think that ingenuous is the proper adjective to fully describe her. Maybe in her relationship with Tamara, yes, you can say ingenuous and etc, but regarding her worldview as a whole, I noticed a certain rigidity: for example, at the beginning of the story, Rafaela is completely poor, sometimes exchanging her body for money (a meal, a hat, clothes) - and she does that with a naturalness that borders indifference.Then she meets the alluring painter Tamara de Lempicka. The initial descriptions of Rafaela posing for Tamara are definitely my favorites. Before the need to put a meaning to feelings, right when the two of them were just a painter and her muse, lusting for each other. Nothing else. No expectations. When Rafaela, by posing, self-discovered her own body. It was beautiful.The romance - can it be called a romance? - is bittersweet. We delight ourselves in it, we hope that everything is going to be alright, we root for them - but always with caution. There is always the feeling that something will happen. And when something does happen, it's painful. I won't lie. It broke my heart.After that, the narrative switches to Tamara. That's part II. I have come to the conclusion that if I kept seeing Rafaela's POV, I'd risk hating Rafaela herself. And Tamara. And Paris. Quite possibly, I'd hate the whole book. The point of view change, at that particular time, was fundamental, in my opinion. Not that Tamara's POV can magicaly give the readers a satisfied/happy explanation about her actions. No, far from it. Tamara's standpoint was like watching Raskólnikov's anguish after he murdered the old lady - however, in casu, Tamara shows more solidity and less guilt. She knew what she wanted, she took it and she dealt with it.To wrap up, I could give this book 4 stars. If I consider the plot itself, it feels like a 4 stars. But Avery's writing is so enchanting, I'll add another star. That said, I can only finish this by saying that The Last Nude is possibly the second book in recent weeks that left me with the sweetest hangover. Yes, a hangover. And that's a compliment.
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  • David Lentz
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance copy of this novel from the Amazon VINE Program for which I am a reviewer. The writing style of Ellis Avery is glorious beyond belief. It's as if a truly gifted writer sought and succeeded in conveying in the brush strokes of her words the experience of the master portrait painter with her canvas. The brush strokes of the syntax are inspired and lucious and rich with well-mixed colors. The intriguing storyline is masterfully crafted with a magnificent interplay of light and I received an advance copy of this novel from the Amazon VINE Program for which I am a reviewer. The writing style of Ellis Avery is glorious beyond belief. It's as if a truly gifted writer sought and succeeded in conveying in the brush strokes of her words the experience of the master portrait painter with her canvas. The brush strokes of the syntax are inspired and lucious and rich with well-mixed colors. The intriguing storyline is masterfully crafted with a magnificent interplay of light and darkness in the texture of the tale. It is elegantly sensual, smoldering, and yet most tastefully rendered. Major players of the Lost Generation in Paris appear or are named: Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Company, Cocteau, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein. Avery animates Sylvia Beach and brings her to life remarkably but much less so these charcoal sketches of famous artists and writers, which I had hoped she would render with more depth and daring. Rafaela is a young model and the central story line concerns the relationship between the model and her painter, Tamara de Lempicka. The main and lesser known characters literally and figuratively are roundly drawn with fascinating idiosyncracy. The connection between model and painter is portrayed realistically and the effect is powerful of their love affair and treacherous business relationship just as Paris was about to be torn apart by global strife. The writing is exquisitely crafted and every sentence is a beauty, a microcosm of the bigger picture -- a world in every word. As someone who reads literary novels avidly, and also writes them, I know a great book when I read one and this is a major work with a timeless quality which is both dreamy in the composition and vividly real with a clarity and craftsmanship uncommonly rare. Avery can defintely write and her commanding novel should prove to be one for the ages about a time before the war when art boldly sought to assert its humanity with new expression leaving the art and artists immortal. For as painful as true art proves to be as a harsh mistress, true art endures. If you are a serious reader of literary novels, then Avery's brilliant portrait work and moving, layered, story line will leave you breathless: this is a brilliant novel beckoning exotically to be read. Give in to the impulse and indulge youself in a great read.
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  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    I gave myself a personal challenge this year and that was to read a new release each month. This was my first read in the challenge.I didn't know anything about the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka before reading this book. One of the things I like about historical fiction is that it gives me the opportunity to learn about historical people and events. This book tells the story of the relationship between Tamara de Lempinski and her model, Rafaela Fano. The first part of the book is narrated I gave myself a personal challenge this year and that was to read a new release each month. This was my first read in the challenge.I didn't know anything about the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka before reading this book. One of the things I like about historical fiction is that it gives me the opportunity to learn about historical people and events. This book tells the story of the relationship between Tamara de Lempinski and her model, Rafaela Fano. The first part of the book is narrated by Rafaela. It was slow to start but just as I was about to put it aside, the pace picked up. I enjoyed Rafaela though I didn't think that character development in this book was strong.The last part of the book was narrated by Tamara. The pace dragged down again and I realized that I didn't care enough about this woman to enjoy the final chapters. She did not seem to be a likeable woman.The thing I liked the most about this book is that it inspired me to go online and look at her art. I not well versed in art, but I know what I like. I like many of her paintings. So, in that respect, my life has been enriched by this book.
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  • Janellyn51
    January 1, 1970
    I don't know...I just didn't like it all that much. I paint myself, and really I just copy stuff that I like and I'm pretty good at it. I've done several Lempika's, Saint Morritz, and Spring, another one or two. I love Lempika's work, I just don't like her. I read the biography Kizette wrote about her years ago, so I already knew a fair amount about her. It's hard to know what's real and what's not in this book. I would be interested in knowing about Raphaela, but I'd like to know what's real an I don't know...I just didn't like it all that much. I paint myself, and really I just copy stuff that I like and I'm pretty good at it. I've done several Lempika's, Saint Morritz, and Spring, another one or two. I love Lempika's work, I just don't like her. I read the biography Kizette wrote about her years ago, so I already knew a fair amount about her. It's hard to know what's real and what's not in this book. I would be interested in knowing about Raphaela, but I'd like to know what's real and what isn't. I'm not saying the author did a poor job of writing the book, it read easily enough. I have the same problem with this book that I had with Katherine Govier's book Creation about the artist Audubon, which is well written and fascinating, but in both books, I really didn't like the central real person characters, who I had formerly been in awe of...who is self centered, and doesn't care who or what they take down with them in thier pursuit of pleasure and furthering themselves. The book did make me want to know more about Sylvia Beach and some of the other periferal actual people in the book. I also think that Lempika was one of those people who did her best work when she was young, and she was put in a position, I think, where if she didn't change her style with the times, people would have dissed her for that, but her style is what made her, and he later work, just didn't hold up at all, and some of it was just plain terrible.
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  • Racine Zackula
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating book about an intriguing premise – the love affair between Tamara de Lempicka and her model. Tamara de Lempicka was a painter most famous in the twenties where her severe, cubist work caught the imagination of the French with its Art Deco allure. Lempicka painted a mysterious woman named Rafaela and the back story that the writer invents for this muse is interesting, but lacks plausibility. Rafaela is a girl from New York City being sent to Italy for an arranged marriage. She makes A fascinating book about an intriguing premise – the love affair between Tamara de Lempicka and her model. Tamara de Lempicka was a painter most famous in the twenties where her severe, cubist work caught the imagination of the French with its Art Deco allure. Lempicka painted a mysterious woman named Rafaela and the back story that the writer invents for this muse is interesting, but lacks plausibility. Rafaela is a girl from New York City being sent to Italy for an arranged marriage. She makes it to France and makes a meager living as a “girlfriend” of rich men, but it seems unlikely in that time and being brought up in a sheltered environment, that she would have thrived. That being said, the language used by the author is wonderful and enchanting. The plotting was well done and I enjoyed the story. The subplot of Rafaela and Anson was interesting and it was funny when he later discovers how young Rafaela actually is. If you enjoy historical fiction, then you will find this is a lush, beautiful glimpse of jazz age France.
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    I confess that prior to this novel, I had not heard of the Polish art deco artist, Tamta de Lempicka. I do know about and enjoy details of the Lost Generation (“Midnight in Paris” acquainted many people with some of these characters) in Paris. Avery’s novel tells some of the painter’s story, letting us meet Tamara through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Rafaela Fano, who became muse and model for de Lempicka.I went back and forth between de Lempicka’s paintings online and the book that imagined h I confess that prior to this novel, I had not heard of the Polish art deco artist, Tamta de Lempicka. I do know about and enjoy details of the Lost Generation (“Midnight in Paris” acquainted many people with some of these characters) in Paris. Avery’s novel tells some of the painter’s story, letting us meet Tamara through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Rafaela Fano, who became muse and model for de Lempicka.I went back and forth between de Lempicka’s paintings online and the book that imagined how each painting might have come about. Rafaela is an engaging character, young and naïve enough that I kept wanting to shout, “Don’t do it!” when she made one bad decision after another. Rafaela’s point of view in the first section was for me more compelling than the second section written from Tamara’s point of view. All in all, though, I enjoyed Avery’s sensuous writing and depiction of a well-known time and place with a different set of characters (artists instead of writers) and their possible lives.
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    How wonderful to find a historical novel with a main bi character who is not the villain of the piece, but rather one of its moral centers. In *The Last Nude,*" Ellis Avery recreates the lives of Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish painter in 1920s Paris, and her model and lover Rafaela Fano. She also takes us on a tour of the female queer demimonde of the place and time, with cameos by famous literary and art world figures. Erotic as well as imaginative, this book made me put Avery's other two books, How wonderful to find a historical novel with a main bi character who is not the villain of the piece, but rather one of its moral centers. In *The Last Nude,*" Ellis Avery recreates the lives of Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish painter in 1920s Paris, and her model and lover Rafaela Fano. She also takes us on a tour of the female queer demimonde of the place and time, with cameos by famous literary and art world figures. Erotic as well as imaginative, this book made me put Avery's other two books, *The Smoke Week: September 11-21, 2001* and *The Teahouse Fire" on my "to-read" list.
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  • Jean Roberta
    January 1, 1970
    Paris in the 1920s was a glittering refuge for expatriate artists, hedonists, the sexually unconventional, exiles and runaways of all sorts. Its soundtrack was le jazz hot. The author of this novel, who teaches fiction-writing at Columbia University in New York, has brought this milieu back to life in words that seem as carefully chosen as a palette of colours.The “last nude” of the title is a copy of one of the six paintings of “beautiful Rafaela” made in the 1920s by an actual painter, Tamara Paris in the 1920s was a glittering refuge for expatriate artists, hedonists, the sexually unconventional, exiles and runaways of all sorts. Its soundtrack was le jazz hot. The author of this novel, who teaches fiction-writing at Columbia University in New York, has brought this milieu back to life in words that seem as carefully chosen as a palette of colours.The “last nude” of the title is a copy of one of the six paintings of “beautiful Rafaela” made in the 1920s by an actual painter, Tamara de Lempicka. In this novel, seventeen-year-old Rafaela is Tamara’s model, her muse, and the primary narrator of their story. Their affair is redeeming and inspirational for both, even though it is characterized by dishonesty and betrayal.Rafaela recounts her short history without self-pity: the child of a scandalous marriage between a Catholic mother and a Jewish father who eloped from Italy to New York in the early twentieth century, Rafaela becomes the outsider in her family after her father dies and her mother marries a socially prominent man in the local Italian community and gives him four sons. By the time Rafaela is sixteen, her lush beauty is distracting and disturbing to her stepfather and her mother.To “protect” her and get her out of the way, they plan to marry her off to a relative of her stepfather in Italy. Her step-grandmother agrees to escort Rafaela to her new home. On a trans-Atlantic ship, Rafaela attracts the attention of a much older Frenchman who helps her to escape to Paris. Alone in a strange city, Rafaela seems doomed to the dramatic but sordid life of a kept woman or (especially when desperate for cash) a casual whore. When her parents in New York learn her whereabouts, they disown her.Rafaela meets another mistress of a married Frenchman, Gin from California, who hopes to launch a career as a singer and a dancer. The two girls are set up in an apartment together by their frugal patrons, and they become best friends.Rafaela shows no sexual interest in women until she is picked up in the Bois de Boulogne by the charismatic Tamara, who claims to be twenty-nine. As always, Rafaela’s appearance produces a reaction in an observer that Rafaela herself can’t fathom. Without being fully aware of it, the girl is famished for love.Tamara is brilliant, selfish and opaque. She claims to be a refugee from the Russian Revolution of 1917 with a husband who is in the process of divorcing her. “De Lepicka” seems to be a Frenchified version of a Polish name, but whether Tamara herself is Polish or Russian is open to question. Her young daughter Kizette is often left in the care of Tamara’s mother, but in Rafaela’s viewpoint, Tamara is wonderfully attentive to her daughter.Tamara’s claims to a rightful place among the nobility serve as a warning to the reader that Tamara craves financial security and improved social status, two things she couldn’t have in an exclusive relationship with Rafaela. Yet love and hope are often impervious to common sense.A supporting cast of secondary characters includes Sylvia Beach, the American owner of a famous bookstore which serves as an avant-garde social centre, Shakespeare and Company. She and her long-term lover Adrienne Monnier take a motherly interest in Rafaela, who sees evidence in them and their regular clientele that life outside the social mainstream doesn’t have to be degrading. Eventually, Rafaela’s talent as a seamstress enables her to survive without selling her body in any way.Tamara has the last word in their story, yet Rafaela’s innocence in the midst of exploitation and self-promotion haunts the reader after the last page. Her beauty is shown to be more than physical.Repeated references to Rafaela as “Juive” (Jewish) by Tamara’s admirers point to the growing antisemetism, particularly in France, that eventually resulted in the Holocaust. The elderly Tamara, reminiscing about the Second World War, expresses concern for Rafaela and a willingness to rescue her from a fate worse than poverty or prostitution, but by this point, Tamara’s credibility is open to doubt.It is tempting to quote directly from the novel, but the review copy I read is an advance proof which could be revised before the book is released for sale. The author’s style in the advance version is already so vivid and painterly that I can only hope the last version (like the last nude) retains the freshness of the original.----------------------------------
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  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book. And in that way when I'm totally smitten, I'm not even sure I can compose complete sentences explaining why I loved this book so. In short: the writing is gorgeous, the romance sensual and sexy, and the characters sketched quickly but warmly despite their flaws. First, the setting. I'm mad for Paris in the late '20s and I love the circle of artists the novel focuses on; Avery creates the ambiance without bogging down the story in details. There's a mix of hard scrabble poverty I loved this book. And in that way when I'm totally smitten, I'm not even sure I can compose complete sentences explaining why I loved this book so. In short: the writing is gorgeous, the romance sensual and sexy, and the characters sketched quickly but warmly despite their flaws. First, the setting. I'm mad for Paris in the late '20s and I love the circle of artists the novel focuses on; Avery creates the ambiance without bogging down the story in details. There's a mix of hard scrabble poverty and excessive wealth, titles and nobodies, post-war and pre-war. The novel references de Lempicka's art from 1927 on, which can be seen online -- and should, because they're gorgeous. And sexy. Second, the characters. I really fell in love with everyone, even the unappealing ones, the shameful ones, the shameless ones, the selfish jerks and the too-saintly-to-be true mouses. They felt real to me, even though Avery doesn't spend tons of time describing them, either. (I'm afraid I'm making this sound like the narrative is thin, but it isn't!) Through snappy dialogue and Rafaela's viewpoint (and for a brief time, Tamara's) we see meet these rapacious souls (food, money, sex, artistic inspiration, safety -- the need various, but there's unceasing hunger!). Shamefully (?), I liked Tamara despite her cruel, predatory, and selfish behavior, because Avery made her so real for me. The manipulative, passionate woman we see through Rafaela's eyes tells her side of the story, briefly, late in life. And finally, the writing. This novel races even though it isn't a fast-paced or intricately plotted novel. The hot burn of desire propels the story; like Rafaela impatient for the day to end so she can go to Tamara, I was impatient for the next liaison, the next drink, the next painting. I ate up every word because each sentence fulfilled and left me yearning. The end of the book killed me dead in the best way, oh-so-bittersweet and sad and yummy.For those uncomfortable with sex, this novel might be too spicy. Avery writes some of the sexiest lesbian sex I've read in a novel in a long time, and while it isn't graphic, it also isn't discreet. The sex is part of the story, like the paintings, like Paris, and feels right, not gratuitous. I'm making myself want to read this all over again. Right now.
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  • Mel
    January 1, 1970
    This did start out good but it wasn't that interesting to me and the characters fell flat in my opinion. It was a little bit too much romance novel for my taste. I am moving on to something else. I just can't seem to get into this one. I can't win them all. This one just isn't for me. Did not finish. One star = nope, didn't like it. Back to the library with this one.
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  • Elaine Burnes
    January 1, 1970
    I’ll never look at a painting of a person, especially a nude, in the same way again—or rather, I’ll look at a painting more fully. Who is that model? If she was the wife or lover of the painter, was she happy? Was she forced into that position? Both physically and metaphorically. We think of the models as providing mere content for the painting. Look at how the fabric folds, or how the shadows play across the nude form. It’s not a form, it’s a human being, with a life and aspirations and heartac I’ll never look at a painting of a person, especially a nude, in the same way again—or rather, I’ll look at a painting more fully. Who is that model? If she was the wife or lover of the painter, was she happy? Was she forced into that position? Both physically and metaphorically. We think of the models as providing mere content for the painting. Look at how the fabric folds, or how the shadows play across the nude form. It’s not a form, it’s a human being, with a life and aspirations and heartache all her own. If her gaze is averted, why? Was she told to, or could she not bear to gaze upon the person examining her so closely, staring at her for hours, with what intention?I profess to not liking fictional books about real people, but this is the second one I’ve read and it’s a story that will stay with me a long time. I’ll try not to take it literally, since almost nothing is known about the real Rafaela. It’s a “what if” story. It could have happened this way, but maybe not. So accept it as fiction but enjoy the truths within.The writing is beautiful, the Paris of the 1920s, between wars, parallels the lives of these two women, each caught between her own wars—Rafaela between life as a prostitute and a life being loved. Tamara is a wildly successful painter yet living on the edge without a patron. Even if they could live as a couple, and many women did in Paris at the time, Rafaela cannot make Tamara a baroness. The paintings are central to the story, so Google them as you read. The one on the cover is important, but it’s not the key painting. I find it hard to read words about a visual art (or music for that matter), and because this reads much like an autobiography, it helps to see what they are talking about, who Tamara is painting.I didn’t understand everything that was said, the fine nuances of their conversations, many with French words sprinkled in that were not clear from the context. There are several real people in the cast, but one character seems to be Hemingway—he tells the tale of his wife losing his stories on a train—but clearly is not. I’m not sure if Avery did this with other characters, or why with this one. I wouldn’t even know that but for having read The Paris Wife, another novel about real people. Funny to read two stories of fictionalized real people involving the same fictionalized real people. Rafaela tells her story 16 years after meeting Tamara. Why then? We don’t really learn (or if it’s there, I missed it). The end of the book switches point of view, which made for an interesting flip—much of what has happened now has a different interpretation. Absolutely heartbreaking and beautifully written.Rafaela was only 17 when she met Tamara. They were together a short time. Would Tamara have had such a profound impact on her, over the course of a long life? Possibly? Since we don’t know Rafaela’s real story, any motivations or consequences are speculation. But that she seemed to remain in Tamara thoughts many years later is telling. If even that is true. That’s the problem with novels about real people. I always fear I’ll believe something is true and make an ass of myself at a cocktail party. There are many layers to this story. There’s the very personal story of these two women—how much is real, what really happened? Then there’s the overarching story of an artist and her muse and what is that relationship, exactly?
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  • Brenda
    January 1, 1970
    When I think of Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings (“Portrait of Ira P, 1930” or “Self Portrait in Green Bugatti”), I’m mindful of the similar sheen of cloth and metal. The catchlight in pupils gleams a little too hard to be warm—or altogether human. And “La Belle Rafaela, 1927,” the image that figures so significantly in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude seems a portrait of an alien, nippless being, illumed by internal incandescence that might be translated as emotion. In Avery’s fiction, the model—and n When I think of Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings (“Portrait of Ira P, 1930” or “Self Portrait in Green Bugatti”), I’m mindful of the similar sheen of cloth and metal. The catchlight in pupils gleams a little too hard to be warm—or altogether human. And “La Belle Rafaela, 1927,” the image that figures so significantly in Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude seems a portrait of an alien, nippless being, illumed by internal incandescence that might be translated as emotion. In Avery’s fiction, the model—and narrator for the first 250 pages—is fond of fashion, abrim with ardor. Though intensely sexual, she’s still an ingénue. When de Lempicka takes over narration for the last 50 plus pages, I’m reminded somewhat of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, in which the telling shifts from one lover to the other, revealing how radically the subjective lens can distort perspective. Of course, Avery does not give de Lempicka equal time, despite the fact that most readers may lift this novel to see how a novelist might fictionalize a famous historical person. A wise decision. Not only does the relative anonymity of the model allow Avery more room for improvisation, it also enables the author to introduce the artist’s eroticized surfaces via a sympathetic viewpoint.De Lempicka (like another famously unconventional artiste, Marguerite Duras) turns out not to have been a really nice person. Avery’s closing chapters certainly accord with biographical reports of de Lempicka’s narcissistic personality in later years. Reading such lives, one wonders if it would have been possible for a woman (in the 1920's and 1930's)to defy conventions with such extravagance in youth if she weren’t self-absorbed and semi-sociopathic.At any rate, I found Avery’s novel to be my favorite among the books I’ve been awarded, thus far, through First Reads giveaways. Mostly I loved the painterly strokes of Avery’s prose style. One example: “I felt like a gardenia blossom as I drifted home, fragrant and bruisable” (51).
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    OK, so clearly I'm in the minority here, but is all historical fiction this clumsy? The writing was okay, but the dialog was so obviously not of the era as to be distracting. There isn't the smallest ort of subtlety in how ex-pat notables and various historic references are incorporated into the story. "OH LOOK, there goes JEAN COCTEAU. Hand me some absinthe! You guys, the ZIPPER was just invented! Something something something abortion." And excepting one scene near the beginning, it doesn't ev OK, so clearly I'm in the minority here, but is all historical fiction this clumsy? The writing was okay, but the dialog was so obviously not of the era as to be distracting. There isn't the smallest ort of subtlety in how ex-pat notables and various historic references are incorporated into the story. "OH LOOK, there goes JEAN COCTEAU. Hand me some absinthe! You guys, the ZIPPER was just invented! Something something something abortion." And excepting one scene near the beginning, it doesn't even have the sustained sexiness to be decent erotica. I'd rather be reading Anais Nin or Djuna Barnes.
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  • Kaycie Hall
    January 1, 1970
    This book is one of those historical fiction pieces about one particular writer/artist/etc, in this case the artist Tamara de Lempicka. One of my coworkers warned me that it was bordering on lesbian erotica, but I didn't think it was too racy. Maybe I'm just jaded as far as raciness goes? Who knows, but in any case, this book was a quick read about an artist I knew nothing about. Also good to know--being set in 1930s Paris, this novel was riddled with expat references--Sylvia Barnes, Djuna Barne This book is one of those historical fiction pieces about one particular writer/artist/etc, in this case the artist Tamara de Lempicka. One of my coworkers warned me that it was bordering on lesbian erotica, but I didn't think it was too racy. Maybe I'm just jaded as far as raciness goes? Who knows, but in any case, this book was a quick read about an artist I knew nothing about. Also good to know--being set in 1930s Paris, this novel was riddled with expat references--Sylvia Barnes, Djuna Barnes, and the like.
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  • Swaye
    January 1, 1970
    100% Guilty PleasureThis was essentially a badly written fanfic about Tamara De Lempicka and her muse, La Belle Rafaela. It probably deserves a 1 star rating but its getting an extra star purely because it was the perfect cure for the PMS blues and I am a sucker for anything to do with De Lempicka.
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  • Summer
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to enjoy this as it I liked the premise and it had some nice writing. However I didn't care much for the characters and I found myself putting it down and not in a hurry to pick it back up again.
  • CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up Ellis Avery’s latest novel The Last Nude after reading Danika’s glowing review of it on the lesbrary earlier this year. It’s not every author who can claim your lifelong allegiance after you’ve read only one of her works, but I agree with Danika that Avery is one of these writers and that reading The Last Nude is enough to convince you. This historical novel, set in Paris in the decadent 1920s period between the two world wars, is an easy book to love and sink into. From the first un I picked up Ellis Avery’s latest novel The Last Nude after reading Danika’s glowing review of it on the lesbrary earlier this year. It’s not every author who can claim your lifelong allegiance after you’ve read only one of her works, but I agree with Danika that Avery is one of these writers and that reading The Last Nude is enough to convince you. This historical novel, set in Paris in the decadent 1920s period between the two world wars, is an easy book to love and sink into. From the first unassuming sentence (“I only met Tamara de Lempicka because I needed a hundred francs”), The Last Nude is captivating and delightful. The writing is exquisite; the characterization rich; and the setting wonderfully and lovingly rendered in superb detail. Just because the novel is beautiful, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t also without its delicious complexities. We are introduced to the whirlwind environment of 20s Paris, in all its queer, smoky glory through the eyes of Rafaela Fano, an Italian-American Jew who is also experiencing it for the first time. Rafaela (her actual last name isn’t known) is a real historical person about whom we don’t know much except she was Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka’s model and inspiration for some of her most arresting works, including La Belle Rafaela, which graces the cover of the novel. Rafaela is both sweetly naïve and street-wise, having survived her family’s attempt to arrange her marriage at age sixteen by trading sex for passage to Paris. She’s survived in the city thus far by doing sex work, sometimes in more explicit scenarios than others; Rafaela is on the brink of a so-called respectable job at a department store when Tamara, seduced by her beauty on the street, recruits the young woman to model for her. Tamara, as you might have guessed, is unbelievably sexy and glamorous; of course, she’s also a supremely talented artist with an insatiable appetite for art, wealth, and power. Rafaela falls for Tamara, hard. You know from early on, despite the fact that the story is related to us through Rafaela’s perspective, that Tamara’s motives are more complicated and less wholesome than Rafaela’s young, innocent heart wants to believe. In fact, it’s not just Tamara, it’s the whole circle Rafaela is introduced to: we enter the exotic world of the queer, artsy, bohemian population and are by turns charmed and appalled by them just as Rafaela is. Like us 21st century readers, Rafaela is a stranger to this world, its hopeful possibilities, and its hidden sinister underbelly. Despite the sense of apprehension you feel knowing that Tamara and Rafaela’s love affair is doomed, Tamara offers something to Rafaela that is priceless: she gives Rafaela her own body back and opens up her sexuality. After the first time they make love, Rafaela recalls:“And suddenly I remembered a day when I was very small, before my brothers came along. When my mother went out for groceries, I slopped … oil on the banister and slid down. I climbed those stairs again and again, to get that feeling: how slick my knickers got, how distinctly I could feel the spreading wings of my little figa, how the shock of bliss pleated through me like lightning. I had forgotten this kind of eagerness until now, as my body sobbed into Tamara’s hand. Again, again! I wanted to crow. I was a giddy witch on a broomstick. I was a leaping dog. I was liquor; I was laughter; I was a sliding girl on a shining rail: something I’d forgotten how to be.”Later on, Rafaela tells us how she has learned to love and revel in her body:“Ever since my sixteenth birthday, my body had felt like a coin in an unfamiliar currency: small, shiny, and heavy, obviously of value to somebody, but not to me… My body felt coincidental to me—I could just as easily be a tree, a stone, a gust of wind. For so long, I still felt like the ten-year-old me, skinny as a last wafer of soap, needling through Washington Square on her way to Baxter Street. But my months with Tamara had worn away the lonely old questions and replaced them with a greed of my own: my body was just a fact, this night, a kind of euphoria. I coincided with it, and with the dancing crowd. Throbbing with the horns and drums, we formed a waterfall passing over a light, each of us a drop, a spark, bright, gone. The music danced us, and I knew it wouldn’t last, this body I’d learnt to love.”If you’re at all familiar with famous lesbian/queer/bi expatriate women from this period, you’ll be delighted to see the literary couple Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, who ran successful bookstores and first published James Joyce’s Ulysses, function as Rafaela’s queer elders. Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas make appearances too, as well as Romaine Brooks, Natalie Barney, and Violette Morris. If you don’t know who any of these women are, I suggest looking them up asap. Ah, if only I could time travel back to one of their parties and chat with them, wearing smoky black eye shadow and red lipstick, and smoking cigarettes out of a long classy holder without knowing the consequences.The consequences of the way Tamara treats Rafaela don’t fully emerge until the second part of the book, much smaller than the first, and from the perspective of Tamara as an old woman. On the one hand, I felt robbed of the chance to see in her own words how Rafaela pulls herself up after Tamara’s betrayal and ‘follows her dreams.’ On the other, Avery had to do something to humanize Tamara for us, if only to complicate the view of her as a ruthless egotistical villain. Although I can’t say I was completely satisfied with Tamara’s atonement, I was glad in the end to know that Tamara did care for Rafaela, amidst her self-delusions and guilt. In a way, these revelations made the love story all the more tragic; they also made the novel even more complex, powerful, and poignant than it already was. This, considering The Last Nude is (lesbian) historical fiction at its finest, is quite an achievement.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Nude by Ellis Avery is a fascinating book about the painter Tamara de Lempicka. Taking place primarily in Paris during 1927, Tamara picks up Rafaela Fano in her car and begins to use her as a model. Prior to modeling for Tamara, 17-year-old Rafaela was prostituting herself and living hand to mouth. A very sensuous and loving relationship develops. However, it does not pan out as Rafaela would hope. Tamara has reasons to want money and prestige, things that do not come with Rafaela. Rafa The Last Nude by Ellis Avery is a fascinating book about the painter Tamara de Lempicka. Taking place primarily in Paris during 1927, Tamara picks up Rafaela Fano in her car and begins to use her as a model. Prior to modeling for Tamara, 17-year-old Rafaela was prostituting herself and living hand to mouth. A very sensuous and loving relationship develops. However, it does not pan out as Rafaela would hope. Tamara has reasons to want money and prestige, things that do not come with Rafaela. Rafaela is the muse for Tamara's most famous painting, 'La Belle Rafaela'. In this novel, many famous artists are discussed - Romaine Brooks, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Tallulah Bankhead, James Joyce, Andre Gide, James Joyce, Sylvia Beach, and many more. Paris is bustling with artists and there is a very large homosexual population. This novel focuses on the lesbian relationships prominent at that time.Most all of the book is written from the viewpoint of Rafaela who, at 17, has a voice that seems much too mature for her years. This aspect of the book requires an act of faith to be believed. Rafaela is madly and completely in love with Tamara. It is her wish to live with her forever. She is, herself, a talented dressmaker and has dreams of opening up a store to display her wares. She gets a start on designing with a friend of Tamara's.There are a lot of betrayals and jealousies in the novel, along with vivid descriptions of the artistic process. Rafaela is a naive young woman but Tamara is a decade her senior with a daughter and an impending divorce under her belt. She has many plans and does not feel reciprocally about Rafaela.The second part of the book, a very short piece, is written from Tamara's viewpoint when she is in her eighties. She discusses the relationship she had with Rafaela, what she could have done differently and how her life is now. She is dealing with old age and shaky hands so her painting is affected. However, she is having shows in Japan and the United States. She has no money worries as her husband was very wealthy and left her with a lot of money. She is verging on paranoia as she tries to decide who to leave her inheritance to and wondering who has betrayed her recently.Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. However, on some levels, it floundered. Without spoilers, I will say that there are often no good reasons for the things that Tamara or Rafaela do, their choices seem impulsive and the book can jump from topic to topic and read, at times, like a soap opera. I loved the historical aspect of the artistic venue in Paris. I've read the biography of Romaine Brooks by Meryl Secrest and highly recommend that. Books about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are ubiquitous. I suggest seeing Jean Cocteau's movies and reading some Joyce. That will put the reader in the mood for this very good novel.
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  • Christy B
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Nude is a beautiful novel that reads fast, but does not lack in quality. Most of the novel is set in 1927 Paris told from the point-of-view of Rafaela Fano, an 17-year-old Italian American. While it was written in the first person, it sometimes felt like third person because Rafaela wasn't a reliable narrator. She chooses what she does and does not see and convinces herself of things that are not true. In 1927 Rafaela meets painter Tamara de Lempicka and agrees to pose for her. She insp The Last Nude is a beautiful novel that reads fast, but does not lack in quality. Most of the novel is set in 1927 Paris told from the point-of-view of Rafaela Fano, an 17-year-old Italian American. While it was written in the first person, it sometimes felt like third person because Rafaela wasn't a reliable narrator. She chooses what she does and does not see and convinces herself of things that are not true. In 1927 Rafaela meets painter Tamara de Lempicka and agrees to pose for her. She inspires a number of Lempicka's paintings, but the most famous one is the first one she paints: Beautiful Rafaela. The Last Nude is what the author imagines the relationship between the painter and her muse was like.Rafaela fashions herself in love with Tamara, but soon reality comes crashing down around her. The second part of the story, which is only about the last 50 pages or so, is told from the point-of-view of an elderly Tamara, now living in Mexico in the 1970s. At this point in her life, Tamara is about as a reliable narrator as a 17-year-old Rafaela. So, I realize, we may not even be getting the whole story. There's still some mystery there.I was incredibly engrossed in the story, thanks to the effortless prose and immersible story. Even some of the side characters were irresistible. Although, there were one or two who I would have liked to have known what happened to them. A great between-the-wars story that had three main characters: Rafaela, Tamara, and Paris. Recommended.
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  • Violet
    January 1, 1970
    Me thinks, every true, genuine talent or genius as a rule happen to be total assholes, leaving the trail of used up people, crushed hopes, and scorched earth. You get too close to the sun and you'll get burned. Historical fiction is a tricky thing to write, but author does a really great job, recreating the jubilant atmosphere of 20ies in Paris, sprinkling the story with renowned historical personalities, telling a tale of first love, innocence lost and games with no winners. Beautiful book abou Me thinks, every true, genuine talent or genius as a rule happen to be total assholes, leaving the trail of used up people, crushed hopes, and scorched earth. You get too close to the sun and you'll get burned. Historical fiction is a tricky thing to write, but author does a really great job, recreating the jubilant atmosphere of 20ies in Paris, sprinkling the story with renowned historical personalities, telling a tale of first love, innocence lost and games with no winners. Beautiful book about people creating beautiful things and playing cruel games. A moment before the storm, before historical meat grinder starts. And the aftermath.About 3/4 of a book is written in POV of young Raphaela, and boy, do I not like young people. Like at all. Yet I fell for her naiveté, her innocence and I felt truly sad for her, because artists? Assholes, all of them. The last quarter of a book - told in Tamara's perspective, after a long long time. LOVED IT. Such talent are like cats, really - no apologies, because they know their own worth and use others - be it objects or people, even their own children, as tools. Sociopaths, all of them. Assholes, too. But the treasures they create are breathtaking. La Belle Rafaela
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  • Jori Richardson
    January 1, 1970
    In the golden age of 1920's Paris, wealth radiates off the streets. Gertrude Stein holds lavish salons, the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop hosts expatriates and aspiring novelists such as James Joyce, and painter Tamara de Lempicka prepares to create her greatest masterpieces.It is this world that the reader, and our main character of Rafaela Fano is thrown into. Struggling and desperate, Rafaela - a young girl who has recently run away to Paris rather than marry against her will - reluctantly a In the golden age of 1920's Paris, wealth radiates off the streets. Gertrude Stein holds lavish salons, the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop hosts expatriates and aspiring novelists such as James Joyce, and painter Tamara de Lempicka prepares to create her greatest masterpieces.It is this world that the reader, and our main character of Rafaela Fano is thrown into. Struggling and desperate, Rafaela - a young girl who has recently run away to Paris rather than marry against her will - reluctantly agrees to let a mysterious, dazzling woman paint her nude. This woman turns out to be Lempicka, a Polish Art Deco artist.Rafaela goes from model to muse to lover, and falls deeply in love with the glamorous older woman.This book was well written and lovely reading. Avery has a lovely way of describing things. For example, "The soft morning air was lush as cream..." (page 59). Her characters become real, especially Tamara herself.At her betrayal, I felt as stung and hurt as Rafaela did.The only fault I could find with this book was that I wish it had described more of the Parisian 1920's - a time period that I find fascinating.Recommended.
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  • Tara Chevrestt
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating book. I was so intrigued by all of its characters and going ons, that I had to google the Lempicka's complete works and see the paintings mentioned in the novel for myself. Tamara Lempicka was a famous artist who began her life as a Pole in Russia...later kicked out in the revolution. She honed her skills as a a painter in Paris and explored freely with her sexuality. Apparently, (in this book, anyway) any artistic woman in France in 1927 worth her salt was a Lesbian. The heroine a A fascinating book. I was so intrigued by all of its characters and going ons, that I had to google the Lempicka's complete works and see the paintings mentioned in the novel for myself. Tamara Lempicka was a famous artist who began her life as a Pole in Russia...later kicked out in the revolution. She honed her skills as a a painter in Paris and explored freely with her sexuality. Apparently, (in this book, anyway) any artistic woman in France in 1927 worth her salt was a Lesbian. The heroine and Lempicka tend to socialize and stay in that inner circle.Rafaela narrates the tale. Rafaela escaped an unwanted marriage to find herself posing naked on Lempicka's couch. Lempicka takes Rafaela to her bed as well through her narrative and eyes, we learn about how Lempicka painted La Belle Rafaela, The Dream, Nude With Dove, Chemise Rose, and Full Summer. The pink chemise...a gift sewn by Rafaela...the Nude With Dove...due to an issue of jealousy and an old lover of Lempicka's, it's actually Rafaela's body, but another woman's face...For full review, please follow the link: http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2011/...
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  • Noëlibrarian
    January 1, 1970
    At 16, Italian- American Rafaela is a ravishing beauty – and her stepfather wants her married as soon as possible. Rafaela resists the awful plan to marry her off to a cousin in Sicily, and when her much-hated step-grandmother nearly dies on the steamship crossing to Europe, Rafaela makes her escape. Having no money, she exchanges sex for a ticket to Paris. The year is 1927 and Paris is full of artists and writers – there is no shortage of wealthy men to use for a while – but then Rafaela meets At 16, Italian- American Rafaela is a ravishing beauty – and her stepfather wants her married as soon as possible. Rafaela resists the awful plan to marry her off to a cousin in Sicily, and when her much-hated step-grandmother nearly dies on the steamship crossing to Europe, Rafaela makes her escape. Having no money, she exchanges sex for a ticket to Paris. The year is 1927 and Paris is full of artists and writers – there is no shortage of wealthy men to use for a while – but then Rafaela meets Tamara, and her world turns upside down. Tamara is an artist, she wants Rafaela to pose for her, and together they create a beautiful painting that sparks a heated bidding war between two wealthy art collectors. Rafaela falls in love, for the first time in her life, with Tamara – but their passionate physical affair cannot erase the trouble in Tamara’s past. This book, peppered with allusions to Paris and its famous “Lost Generation” of artists, designers, poets, musicians, and writers during the time between the wars, evokes the sensuality of the times and the bitter –and immediate – pasts of the expatriates.
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  • Margie
    January 1, 1970
    The Last Nude was thrust at me by a coworker. It sat on my "to read" pile for several weeks. Shame on me. I should have read it immediately. The story line was fascitnating if not a little shocking. But in Paris in the 1920's nothing should be off limits. My only concern with the book is the use of the French language frequently. Since I have little knowledge of French, it was difficult to understand the exact meaning the author was trying to convey. After finishing The Last Nude, just for fun, The Last Nude was thrust at me by a coworker. It sat on my "to read" pile for several weeks. Shame on me. I should have read it immediately. The story line was fascitnating if not a little shocking. But in Paris in the 1920's nothing should be off limits. My only concern with the book is the use of the French language frequently. Since I have little knowledge of French, it was difficult to understand the exact meaning the author was trying to convey. After finishing The Last Nude, just for fun, I googled Tamara de Lempicka, the protaganist of the story, and found she was a real person. This surprised me very much. The body of work is extensive and very interesting.So hats off to my coworker and forgive me delay.
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