The Mistress of Paris by
The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret

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It might have done with another edit – the word “glittering” is overused and there is a pervasive sense of material overstretched, especially towards the end – but at its best this is an enthralling story...
-Guardian

Synopsis

Catherine Hewitt's The Mistress of Paris is a fantastically readable biography of a nineteenth-century Parisian courtesan who harbored an incredible secret.

“A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.” —The New York Times Book Review

Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was painted by Édouard Manet and inspired Émile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel Nana. Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future King Edward VII kept gossip columns full. But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no comtesse.

Valtesse was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid backstreet among the dregs of Parisian society. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art the envy of connoisseurs across Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life—and even her death—remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more.

Spectacularly evoking the sights and sounds of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris in all its hedonistic glory, Catherine Hewitt’s biography tells, for the first time ever in English, the forgotten story of a remarkable woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.

 

About the Author

Catherine Hewitt studied French Literature and Art History at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her proposal for The Mistress of Paris was awarded the runner-up’s prize in the 2012 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Competition for the best proposal by an uncommissioned, first-time biographer. She lives in a village in Surrey.
 
Published January 24, 2017 by St. Martin's Press. 373 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Travel, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Alexander Larman on Nov 22 2015

It might have done with another edit – the word “glittering” is overused and there is a pervasive sense of material overstretched, especially towards the end – but at its best this is an enthralling story...

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