When the publisher offered me an opportunity to review The Last Nude, I wasn’t sure. I mean, I know nothing about Paris during the mid 1920’s and I know about the same amount about painters. I had never heard of Tamara de Lempicka. But the premise sounded interesting so I agreed. In a nutshell, the story is about the relationship between 17-year-old model Rafaela Fano and the famous painter, 12 years her senior. It’s also about Rafaela’s coming of age and, later on, Tamara’s final days.
The first two-thirds of the book is told by Rafaela and, while she had been around the block a few times, she was young and naive when it came to love. She had learned how to use her body to survive but she had not experienced anything like what she had begun to feel for de Lempicka. The final portion of the book is told by the painter. I wasn’t prepared for that switch but, after I got over the shock of the change in tone and voice, I settled in to learn more about her and how she viewed the events with that taken place decades before. The differences between Rafaela’s perceptions and Tamara’s were immense.
I don’t want to give away too much more about the plot but I do want to say that I was immediately engaged in the book. Ms. Avery gave us a tough but naive and sensitive 17-year-old young woman who was jaded, yet hopeful. Through Rafaela’s eyes, we see the beautiful Tamara as an artist who is gifted, driven, and self-centered but who could also be tender, giving, and loving. We get a glimpse into the parties filled with artists, athletes, royalty, and plenty of drugs and alcohol. Once the relationship between Rafaela and Tamara is cemented, the story moves on to the battle between two men to own a painting that Tamara has sworn never to sell. Once I got to this part of the book, I couldn’t stop reading.
The Last Nude was beautifully written and engaging with characters that were complex and felt real. I cared about them, even when I didn’t want to. The author did a fantastic job of grabbing me and holding on through the entire book. I highly recommend The Last Nude and look forward to reading more by Ms. Avery.
Oh! I nearly forgot to mention that, because I was unfamiliar with Tamara de Lempicka’s work, I did a bit of research and her paintings are incredible. One of her works is described by Rafaela very early in the book and it was a delight to have seen it myself. From the author’s description, I would have known it anywhere. Which reminds me, again, of how well Ms. Avery uses her skills to bring Paris to life in the book. Thank you, Ellis Avery for the great read!