Garden of Venus by Eva Stachniak
An alluring, exotic novel set in the early nineteenth century, based on the life of the famous and much-painted courtesan, La Belle Phanariote. Sophie, the Countess Potocki, is travelling with her entourage from St Petersburg to Paris, to consult with French doctors, when she stops at the Berlin palace of her friend, the Graf von Haefen. There, her whole extraordinary life during one of the most turbulent periods of European history comes back to haunt her - the many strands of her life, the many roles in which she has presented herself, the many biographies she has made up, the many lovers and protectors she has cherished and deceived. And still she continues to attempt to manipulate the lives of those around her. But two of them, her Polish lady-in-waiting and the French doctor summoned to her, have been brought up in a different, more modern era. Her lady-in-waiting survived the terrible wars that tore her family apart, and the doctor is a child of the revolutionary spirit that burnt through Europe from Paris. Both have very different ideas than Countess Potocki on how to lives their lives, and how to survive the turmoil in the beginning of this new century. Brilliantly written, cleverly constructed with a strong cast of characters, both real and fictional, and vivid scenes, Garden of Venus is an alluring, sensuous and exotic saga which will delight readers of Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory and Isabelle Allende.