American Library Association Stonewall Fiction Award
Golden Crown Historical Fiction Award
Lambda Fiction Award Finalist
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. Ellis 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, this is a novel about genius and craft, love and desire, regret and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.
“Avery’s imaginative gift shines brightest in her ability to take familiar characters (naïve young waif; avaricious older lover), place them in a familiar setting (la belle Paris), engage them in a familiar plot (“Come up to my studio and see my etchings’’ never ends well, does it?) and make them shiny and deeper and new. Writing this novel was an act of courage and a display of exceptional talent. Publishing it was an act of good judgment, and a leap of faith.” Boston Globe
“ ….. a compulsively readable novel that brings to life a diva whose biography is as titillating as her paintings.” Washington Post
“The Last Nude breaks important ground for literature, and does so with exuberance, skill and grace.” San Francisco Chronicle