BOOK REVIEW: The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

The Last Nude by Ellis AveryThe Last Nude
By Ellis Avery
Completed December 3, 2011

Ellis Avery was inspired to write her latest book, The Last Nude, when she learned about Tamara de Lempicka and how Lempicka met the model for her famous nude paintings. Though little is know about Lempicka’s real model, Avery used her imagination, crafting a tale that showcases the whirlwind lifestyle of 1920’s Paris and the dreams of an American girl.

Rafaela, en route from the U.S. to Italy to meet her bethrothed, wanted a better life for herself, and escaped the ship on the arm of a French man. She became a prostitute in return for freedom and a Parisian life. One day, while on a walk, Rafaela met Tamara, who asked Rafaela to model for her. She agreed, and as the two began to work together, they started a torrid affair.

Most of the story is told from Rafaela’s perspective. We see the parties, drugs, sex and art that marked Paris during the Roaring 20’s. We also see Rafaela’s innocence as a 17-year-old girl who finally takes control of her body and choices. Rafaela was fallible and sympathetic, caught in a web between love and greed. Overall, I liked The Last Nude because I liked Rafaela’s character. When Avery moved the last section of the story to Tamara’s perspective, I was not as enthralled, and the speculation about what happened to Rafaela was unsatisfying.

Other reviewers have remarked (and often criticized) Avery’s historical licenses with the story, specifically about the art and literature scene in 1920’s Paris with Picasso, Hemingway and Stein at everyone’s elbow. Admittedly, I do not know much about this era of history, so I was not bothered by any mistruths or exaggerations. If you’re familiar with this time period, you may want to read other reviews to make sure this is the book for you. Otherwise, if you like art and literature, then give The Last Nude a try. (  )

FTC Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this book for review on my blog.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vasilly
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 23:13:32

    This book is already on my tbr list and your great review makes me want to read it even more! I don’t know a lot about that time period either, so I doubt Avery’s creative license with the history will bother me.


  2. Ally
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 23:58:43

    This is something I would love to read, for several reasons: to discover more about Lempicka; I simply love Paris in the 20s-30s; two months ago I finished Stein book ” The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” and I enjoyed it a lot. 🙂


  3. Joan P.
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 01:11:18

    Thanks for the review. Will be meeting the author @ a D.C. book store/cafe on l2/8/12. I’m an “older person” but I don’t know much about Paris before WW II, either. So, I don’t care about what any license she may have taken. Besides, she’s made it clear it’s a work of fiction, so what’s all the fuss about with those snobbish “purists”?


  4. Joan P.
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 01:12:45

    Woulda been nice if I’d read the darn comment before I posted it. I sure didn’t mean to say “…don’t care about what any license. . .


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