Advance Comments

“Is there anything better than losing yourself in the underside of history’s carpet — so convincingly imagined that when you finish, you think where am I? DeSanti has focused a powerful intelligence on Napoleon’s Codes of Conduct and brought to life the unknown, silent women caught in their net. Eugénie R. is every girl in a daguerreotype looking over her shoulder, every woman with a baby hurrying away from you down a gas lit street, and then too, she is the first of her kind, a woman who stands at her own barricades and fights a France determined to render her silent. I lost myself wholeheartedly in her story, and would have followed her down any narrow alley into any candlelit room just to know what happened, to stay back there and to delay coming home.”

–Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress


“In Carole DeSanti’s The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R., Second Empire Paris, greedy in peacetime and ravenous in war, is so richly and sensuously drawn one can almost feel it. Cast adrift in this sophisticated and pitiless society, Eugénie Rigault, the novel’s formidable heroine, quickly apprehends that everything and everyone has a price and all options guarantee regret.  Eugénie makes choices. Perhaps if her contemporary, Emma Bovary, had possessed the ingenuity, wit, and tenacity of Eugénie R., Madame B. wouldn’t have had to take that arsenic.”

–Valerie Martin, author of Property

“Reading The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is like entering a lush dream filled with beauty and brutality.  This astonishing debut is a panoramic story of war and peace, love and betrayal, innocence and hard-won wisdom, told through the eyes of a compelling woman who kept me at her side through it all.”

–Lauren Belfer, author of A Fierce Radiance

“Penguin editor DeSanti is famed for discovering and promoting topnotch women authors … which suggests the kind of writing you’ll find in this first novel. During France’s Second Empire (1852–71), Eugénie R. follows her beloved to Paris and soon finds herself deserted and pregnant. Forced to become a streetwalker and, eventually, to abandon the daughter to whom she gives birth, Eugénie falls in love with a woman yet meets her old lover as the Prussian army prepares to lay siege to the city during the Franco-Prussian War. Expect lush yet polished language from someone who’s already a pro.”

Library Journal, pre-pub alert

“A magnificent novel in scope and achievement, powerfully written yet delicately evocative. A girl becomes a woman in 19th century France; Eugénie’s unruly passions both save her and curse her. This is a France we scarcely know, more famine, slaughter and savagery than feast, culminating in the Siege of Paris, blessed as ever with a loveliness of landscape, cursed with a conviction of belief. DeSanti’s undoubted literary skills bring the life and times to vivid life. Death does its worst, passion wears itself out, civilization moves a notch forward, and with it, or because of it, female understanding of what it is to be a woman. A book to make you think.”

— Fay Weldon, CBE, author of Lives and Loves of a She-Devil

“Epic times make for epic books.  The Unruly Passions is both sweeping in scope and painstaking in detail.  Eugénie R’s story, from naive goose girl to resilient survivor, makes for wonderful, suspenseful reading, but tumultuous Paris is equally compelling, laid out here by DeSanti in all her grisly or gorgeous glory.  If you love a novel that brings a place and time alive again, this one is for you.  If you love a novel of character and adversity, again, here it is.”

–Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Carole DeSanti’s debut novel paints an unflinching portrait of love and loss against a landscape of Parisian decadence.  ‘How does a woman learn to doubt herself?’ Eugénie wonders, but at the conclusion of this satisfying tale she–and DeSanti–have won the reader’s unwavering admiration.”

–Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches

“There is nothing more magical than being transported right into the heart of another world, in this case, nineteenth-century Paris, the city of light at its most transformative moment, and its bordellos, the dark velvety centers of sex, sin, and political intrigue. Carole DeSanti drops us into that world where we smell the cigars and touch the rich drapery and enter into the experiences of Eugénie R., who takes us along on her own distinctive journey to modern womanhood.”

–Lynn Hunt, Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History, UCLA

“Against a carefully recreated landscape of France and the City of Light during the 1860s, with the Prussian army heading for Paris, DeSanti brings a 21st-century sensitivity for the plight and passions of women in her rendering of Eugénie and the women and men among whom she comes to travel (and eat and drink).

— Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat

“Lord! This is a great piece of work. Eugénie Rigault is a wonderfully maddening heroine, which makes for great plot.  She lives up in her head even as her boots are in the mud of desperation, and her loves and lovers have layers on layers – just as does the society DeSanti makes on the page. How beautifully this is written! How rare that can be to discover on the page.”

–Dorothy Allison, National Book Award Finalist and author of Bastard out of Carolina

“… As fiercely depicted as the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec.”

–Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille

“Carole DeSanti’s powerful debut novel, The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R., is epic fiction in the grand tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy. As Eugénie, a country goose-girl who ‘dares everything for love,’ makes her way through the pawn shops, bordellos, police stations and artists’ ateliers of France’s teetering, intrigue-ridden Second Empire, it is impossible not to fall in love with her and with this magnificent novel, at once a page-turner of the highest order and a literary masterwork.”

–Howard Frank Mosher, author of Walking to Gatlinburg

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