Belle Cora: A Novel

Belle Cora: A Novel

by Phillip Margulies
4.5 13


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Belle Cora: A Novel by Phillip Margulies

      "I had crossed all the lines they you say you can never cross without being destroyed, and here I was, alive and strong."

   In the grand tradition of Moll Flanders and Vanity Fair, this is the story of a good girl who became a bad woman. At the old homestead her name is never spoken and her picture is turned to the wall, but in the vast world beyond everyone remembers her as the celebrated madam of the finest parlor house in San Francisco. Now, at the end of her life, after half a century of successfully hiding the details of her scarlet past, Belle has decided to reveal all her secrets.
  In 1838, Arabella Godwin and her beloved younger brother, Lewis, are orphaned and shipped away from their home in New York City to live on their aunt's desolate farm upstate. The comforts she has always known are replaced with grueling work and a pair of cunning enemies in her cousins Agnes and Matthew. Amid this bleak existence, there emerges light in the form of a local boy, Jeptha Talbot.  He is everything good that Arabella craves. His love saves her and becomes an obsession that will last her whole life.   
Time and again she will be broken and remade. She will bear a gambler’s child, build a fortune, commit murder, leave a trail of aliases in her wake and sacrifice almost everything—though perhaps not enough—for the man whose love she cannot bear to lose.  At last her destiny will take her to Gold Rush California, to riches and power.
 Until the day she mysteriously disappears.
 Told with unflagging wit and verve, Belle Cora brings to life a turbulent era and an untamed America on the cusp of greatness. Its heroine is a woman in conflict with her time, who nevertheless epitomizes it with her fighting spirit, her gift for self-invention, and her determination to chart her own fate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385532761
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Pages: 608
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

PHILLIP MARGULIES is the author and editor of many books on science, politics and history for young adults. He has won two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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Belle Cora: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This is a great book. Written really well and a great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting and predictable story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[ I received this book free from the publisher through GoodReads/ First Reads . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising] This is one of my Top Ten books of 2014. And, as much as I was sure it is fiction, it is actually based on a true "Madame" in San Francisco, although Margulies is quick to amend he made up her backstory. "I have treated a historical figure as if she were a product of my imagination, providing her with a childhood, youth, family, husbands, lovers and death that are in conflict with the handful of kniwn facts about Belle Cora. On the other hand, the major public events of the novel...are all true..." ( p.591). Arabella Godwin, born in NYC of a well-to-do family, is shuttled with her youngest brother Lewis to Western NY when her parents die. She never forgives her grandparents for this. Going from riches to rags, she grows up on a hardscrabble farm until she's grown, when she returns to the City to help her brother. Circumstances pile one on another and she becomes the owner of a high class brothel where she rubs elbows with the movers and shakers. After a while she has a child who she chooses to give up to her aunt for the child's sake. Marrying her childhood sweetheart, they travel to San Francisco City during the Gold Rush days where Jeptha is to be a missionary to the locals. With the loss of a young boy while on the boat, his faith is shattered. Their marriage is tested time and time again and Jeptha ends the marriage. Belle restablishes herself as a courtisan soon running one of the best houses in San Fransisco. The story starts early on the day of the 1906 San Fransisco Earthquake, and mostly told as reflections of Arabella's life. It takes the reader through early expansion, through beyond the Civil War; through her marriages and her reinventions as a single respected Madame, an entrepanuer, a murderess, a philanthropist and a protector. This book is highly readable and highly recommended
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BoundtoRead More than 1 year ago
This engrossing historical fiction pulled me in from the first page. On turning that last page, I immediately found myself looking back on the book as a whole - reminiscing, so to speak, on Bell Cora's whole life. Could not put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At 700 pages, I thought this would last awhile......wrong! I could not put down this page turner! Starting with Belle's childhood and continuing through the many decades of her life, the story is beautifully written and all the loose ends tied up. Belle's life is fascinating, tragic, and mesmerizng. No sequels to wait for (yay) this womans story stands alone. Not your run of the mill formula novel. A must read to enjoy, remember, and read again when the details in your memory dull a bit. Belle is the Scarlett O'Hara of her profession.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CAJ45 More than 1 year ago
I'm amazed how well this story was woven that I couldn't not become a part of as I read. Belle came alive. I truly felt that her life could have happened. It's always amazes me when I come a crossed a book that makes me wonder if a book has based its main character on someone in real life. This book did that I actually looked up all of Belle's names to see if she was person outside of the book. Her life and trails and all that she overcame just pulled me into her story. I became the bystander in the book able to see and feel everything. I know I wouldn't have survived as well as Belle did nor do I think I would have had the outcome that she did. She was a strong individual and did what she had to do to survive the hand she was dealt. She's an amazing woman in a wonderful book. I'm so glad that I got to read this! ARC courtesy of Doubleday Books via Netgalley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
Talk about living history, as soon as you pick up this book you are walking in Arabella's shoes. There were many times when I was wanting to help this girl/woman. Such tragedy she suffered as a young girl, born with the preverbal silver spoon, and then having it all gone. Rejection by Grandparents, broke my heart. This book has it all, lots of historical times...walking San Francisco, and living in the moments. We even experience of the Civil War, and losses. Travel around 1800's New York City. Can't say I agree with her profession, and her recruiting, but the story of what made her who she was is excellent. If you are looking for a story of the raw life in California...Gold Rush time, this is for you. It is a rather long book, but very rich. Enjoy! I received this book through the publisher Doubleday, and Edleweiss, and was not required to give a positive review.