“This historical novel about an opera singer is as grand and theatrical as opera itself. It is the story of a legendary soprano who looks back at her past to solve a mystery, but it is also a story of an artist and the road she takes to become one. Chee attempts the seemingly impossible -- to describe a soprano voice with words -- and he succeeds brilliantly, creating a tale that is vivid, intricate, and rich. Throw in cameos by figures like Verdi and George Sand, fascinating details about royal fashions, 19th century Paris, theater, and a circus, and the result is a perfect novel.”
— Anton Bogomazov, Politics & Prose Books and Coffee Shop, Washington, DC
NATIONAL BESTSELLER, New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and a Best Book of the Year from NPR, Boston Globe, BuzzFeed, and others. The mesmerizing story of one woman's rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned diva—"a brilliant performance" (Washington Post).
The Queen of the Night tells the captivating story of Lilliet Berne, an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept into the glamour and terror of Second Empire France. She became a sensation of the Paris Opera, with every accolade but an original role—her chance at immortality. When one is offered to her, she finds the libretto is based on her deepest secret, something only four people have ever known. But who betrayed her?
With epic sweep, gorgeous language, and haunting details, Alexander Chee shares Lilliet’s cunning transformation from circus rider to courtesan to legendary soprano, retracing the path that led to the role that could secure her reputation—or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.
“It just sounds terrific. It sounds like opera.”—The New Yorker
“Sprawling, soaring, bawdy, and plotted like a fine embroidery.”—NPR
About the Author
ALEXANDER CHEE is the best-selling author of the novels The Queen of the Night and Edinburgh, and the essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. He is a contributing editor at the New Republic, and an editor at large at Virginia Quarterly Review. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays 2016, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker, T Magazine,Slate, Vulture, among others. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He is an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College.
National Bestseller New York Times Editor's ChoiceA Best Book of the Year fromNPR,Esquire, Self, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Portland Mercury, Jezebel, Time Out NY, Buzzfeed, Vox.com, Refinery 29, Electric Literature, LitHub, Entropy, The Morning News, and theFinancial TimesAn Indie Next Pick One of the Most Anticipated Titles of 2016 by Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Refinery29, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, BBC, Bustle, The Millions, Flavorwire, Book Riot, Brooklyn Magazine, and Bookish.A Guardian Best Book of the Summer "The Queen of the Night joins Tipping the Velvet and The Crimson Petal and the White as the rare historical novel in which the setting may be old, but the writing makes everything feel brand new. Alexander Chee has written a subversive, sexy epic about a young American girl who struggles more than her fans will ever understand on her way to eventually become a highly celebrated soprano at the Paris Opera House. Lillet Berne's dramatic rise to success is all the more exciting because of all the wonderful details Chee includes about her life in the late 19th century. The descriptions of her dresses alone are worth the price of this book, and Chee's knowledge about opera is such that you can almost hear the music when reading his words. But for all the research and historical detail, in the end, it's a love story, as so many of the most excellent books are."--Esquire “The novel is infused with an operatic sensibility…The Queen of the Night is a celebration of these women of creativity, ingenuity, endurance, mastery and grace—a gala in their honor.” —Kelly Gardiner, New York Times “Epic…Brilliantly extravagant in its twists and turns and its wide-ranging cast of character.” —Julia Felsenthal, Vogue “[An] extravagant five-act grand opera of a novel…Chee’s writing is cultured and confident, and the elite society he depicts is dazzling…Readers willing to submit to the spell of this glittering, luxuriantly paced novel will find that it rewards their attention, from its opening mysteries to its satisfying full-circle finale.” —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal "A sweeping, richly detailed historical novel about a young woman's tumultuous trajectory from circus rider to renowned soprano at the Paris Opera." —Kim Hubbard, People “An opera of the page, complete with seduction, hidden identity, betrayal and plenty of costume changes…It’s the ball gowns and roses, magic tricks and ruses, hubris and punishment that will keep the reader absorbed until the final aria.” —Sarah Begley, Time “Gorgeous prose...Extraordinarily beautiful and dramatic, a brilliant performance.” —Wendy Smith, Washington Post “[A] postmodern bodice ripper…It just sounds terrific. It sounds like opera…It offers a rare, intriguing psychology: the heart as a buried place, where someone is hiding, singing—words you can’t quite hear.” —Joan Acocella, The New Yorker "[A] wild opera of a novel…Swift, smart, immersive, and gorgeous." —Garth Greenwell, The Guardian &n —