Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Francine Prose's Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 revolves around Lou Villars, a cross-dressing lesbian and once-promising athlete who works variously as a nightclub performer, a race car driver, a mechanic, and a Nazi collaborator. What makes this patriotic Frenchwoman turn spy and brutal interrogator for the Gestapo? That's the central question of the novel, and it's taken up by a series of observers, including Lionel, a struggling American writer who's a regular at the boîte; his close friend, the Hungarian photographer Gabor; Suzanne, Gabor's lover; Baroness Lily, who bankrolls Gabor's work; and Yvonne, owner of the Chameleon Club, a magnet for the city's restless bohemians. Gradually, this group's prewar world of decadence, artistic aspirations, and financial striving gives way to deprivation and terror under the Third Reich. Prose makes this well-worn literary territory fresh with her vibrant and often humorously self-serving characters. Unlike most of them, Lou (based loosely on a real woman) never gets to tell her own story—through the end, she remains intriguingly unknowable. Yvonne speaks for us when she wonders what "had poisoned the heart and mind of that poor girl who only wanted to dress like a boy and find someone to love her."
— Karen Holt