The Last Nude

The Last Nude

3.8 19
by Ellis Avery
     
 

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“As erotic and powerful as the paintings that inspired it.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Paris, 1927. 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 support herself, Rafaela agrees to model for the artist, a

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Overview

“As erotic and powerful as the paintings that inspired it.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Paris, 1927. 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 support herself, 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. A tour de force of historical imagination, The Last Nude is about genius and craft, love and desire, regret and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.

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Editorial Reviews

Kathryn Lang
As in her first novel…Avery deftly re-creates a lost period…[The Last Nude is] a compulsively readable novel that brings to life a diva whose biography is as titillating as her paintings.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In Avery’s second novel (after The Teahouse Fire), poor young Rafaela meets Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka in 1920s Paris. Rafaela is no stranger to the currency of sex (“I had traded sex for a train ticket, for an apartment, for a coat and hat and shoes, and most recently... for money”). Before meeting de Lempicka, however, Rafaela had never gone to bed because she wanted to, and the artist awakens the young woman’s desire. Centered around de Lempicka’s provocative nudes of Rafaela, the novel chronicles the shifting boundaries between artist and muse over the course of a heated affair. The relationship is tested when the prestigious Salon d’Automne jury accepts two of de Lempicka’s Rafaela paintings, The Dream and La Bella Rafaela. De Lempicka receives an offer for the latter work before the exhibit even opens, and Rafaela’s portrait becomes a sensation, leaving her uncertain of what to expect in the wake of success, especially from her lover. Though at times contrived, the strength of Avery’s novel lies in her depiction of a driven and accomplished artist and an impressionable waif who finds that her beauty no longer belongs to her. (Jan.)
Oprah.com
“What’s not to love about Ellis Avery’s romantic novel.”
Oprah.com
San Francisco Chronicle
“Absorbing, affecting, and agitating . . . this work is highly recommended.”
Library Journal [HC starred review]
The Boston Globe
“The strength of Avery’s novel lies in her depiction of a driven and accomplished artist and an impressionable waif who finds that her beauty no longer belongs to her.”
Publishers Weekly
More Magazine
“What’s not to love about Ellis Avery’s romantic novel.”
Oprah.com
Booklist
“Plummer . . . captures [young Rafaela’s] appealing energy. . . . Caruso narrates the artist’s part just as convincingly. . . . This is an excellent production of a fascinating story.”
AudioFile
Sound Commentary
“Breaks important ground for literature, and does so with exuberance, skill and grace.”
San Francisco Chronicle
From the Publisher
“A wholly original and engrossing story, set in a fascinating time and place . . . and a display of exceptional talent.”
The Boston Globe

“A taut, elegant novel...[Avery’s] prose sings.”
More Magazine

“Both actors’ convincing performances match the voices of numerous internationals residing in Paris during the Jazz Age.”
Booklist

“Caruso’s voice for Rafaela is a breathy whisper. It becomes more emotional as Rafaela’s relationship with Tamara changes from employer to friend to lover. Plummer reads the elderly Tamara beautifully. . . . A fascinating combination of fact and fiction.”
Sound Commentary

Library Journal
In 1927, bold and glamorous Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka encountered 17-year-old Rafaela while in Paris's Bois de Boulogne and took her home, using her as a model for six significant paintings (including Beautiful Rafaela) and briefly becoming her lover. De Lempicka was working on a copy of Beautiful Rafaela when she died in 1980. Inspired by these bare facts, Avery (The Teahouse Fire) has crafted an evocative, heart-cutting work that imagines the relationship between artist and model. Traveling from New York to Italy for an arranged marriage, Rafaela escapes from her chaperone and, "trad[ing] sex for a train ticket," heads for Paris. There she's gloriously free but living on the edge; when de Lempicka finds her, she's gone to borrow money from a street-walking friend. Avery does a lot for us here, creating two stunning characters—the earthy, heartfelt Rafaela and the conniving de Lempicka—then shows us both the heat of their relationship and the very act of creating art. In the bargain, we get Paris itself, particularly demimonde and artistic, boiling over with possibility. VERDICT Absorbing, affecting, and agitating—you'll end up wanting to punch de Lempicka—this work is highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 7/5/11.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Avery (The Teahouse Fire, 2006, etc.) is right in step with the current publishing trend toward romantic yet literary historical fiction with this imagined romance between the cubist/art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka and the model Rafaela, who appears in six of her paintings. The first, longer section of the novel is told from half-Italian-American Catholic/half-Jewish Rafaela Fano's viewpoint and set among the sexually fluid ex-pats of Paris in 1927. On her way from the Bronx to an arranged marriage in Italy at age 17, Rafaela runs away to Paris, where she quickly becomes part of the demimonde. Rafaela meets 27-year-old Tamara de Lempicka in the Bois de Boulogne (a factual encounter), and Tamara takes her home to pose. Already an established painter, Tamara is an aristocratic émigré from Poland by way of Russia and the mother of a young daughter. She is also going through a difficult divorce and has had affairs with men and women. Soon Tamara and Rafaela are lovers. Rafaela has been paid for sex by numerous men, but for the first time she falls in love. What Tamara feels is less clear because she lives within a self-invented, larger-than-life persona. She is a serious artist and her sexual passion for Rafaela seems real, but so is her passion for money. Soon she embroils Rafaela in a scheme that pits two wealthy art buyers in a competition over who gets the second version of her painting "Beautiful Rafaela," a painting she promises Rafaela she will never sell. The novel's shorter second section shifts to 1980 Mexico, where the aged Tamara spends her last days. Steeped in largely feminine/lesbian sensuality and peopled by famous and cultural figures of pre–World War II Europe, the novel is a dark, sexy romp, although it ends in a disappointing whimper.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594486470
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/31/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
549,987
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Emily Barton
“Seductive . . . intelligent . . . smoking hot.”
—Emily Barton, author of Brookland
Emily Barton
“Seductive . . . intelligent . . . smoking hot.”
—Emily Barton, author of Brookland
Emma Donoghue
“As erotic and powerful as the paintings that inspired it.”
—Emma Donoghue, author of Room
From the Publisher
“[An] amazing book . . . wholly original and engrossing.”
The Boston Globe

The Last Nude breaks important ground for literature, and does so with exuberance, skill, and grace.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A compulsively readable novel.”
The Washington Post

“A taut, elegant novel . . . [Avery’s] prose sings.”
MORE Magazine

“Seductive and compelling, the novel is painted with as much drama and precision as one of Lempicka’s canvases.”
The Daily Beast

“A sly, sleekly written stereograph of art, desire, and desperation in Paris in the ’20s, The Last Nude brings Rafaela to electric life, much as Tamara de Lempicka did when she painted her.”
—Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh

The Last Nude is a remarkable novel: at once a seductive evocation of Lost Generation Paris, a faithful literary rendering of Tamara de Lempicka's idiosyncratic and groundbreaking art, and a vibrant, intelligent, affecting story in its own right. It’s also smoking hot.”
—Emily Barton, author of Brookland

“Ellis Avery transports the reader on a fast-paced magic-carpet ride to Paris between the world wars, a time when artists, patrons, and models fused the business of sex and art, with deeply painful results.”
—Aaron Hamburger, author of Faith for Beginners

The Last Nude carries us through one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods in modern art, and into the minds and bodies of two of art history’s most riveting heroines. With prose and imagery that are both lyrical and unabashedly sensual, Ellis Avery breathes life and depth into famed artist’s muse Rafaela, tracing her rocky but thrilling path from lost girl to Lost Generation icon, and laying bare acts of love, desire and betrayal with all the assuredness of a master artist herself.”
—Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai

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