Francine Prose has written more than 20 books, including the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel, so the term “breakout book” doesn’t really apply. But her new historical novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, is poised to become her biggest hit yet. Told from various perspectives, the novel pieces together the life of Lou Villars—auto racer, cross-dresser and eventual Nazi sympathizer—against the turbulent backdrop of Jazz Age Paris. We asked Prose a few questions about the new book. Read on to find out about her own double identity and why she writes for readers like herself.
During pre-publication readings from her sometimes lyrical, sometimes mournful, always enthralling 12th novel, Goldengrove, Francine Prose was amazed to hear her listeners laugh.
"People laughed!" Prose exclaims during a call to the Greenwich Village home she shares with her husband, the artist Howard Michels. Prose speaks in energetic, good-humored bursts of thought. "I was surprised. Because the book seems to me so grim. But then, apparently, it is not. So I'm delighted, really."