An enthralling biography about one of the most intriguing women of the Victorian age: the first self-invented international social celebrity.
Lola Montez was one of the most celebrated and notorious women of the nineteenth century. A raven-haired Andalusian who performed her scandalous “Spider Dance” in the greatest performance halls across Europe, she dazzled and beguiled all who met her with her astonishing beauty, sexuality, and shocking disregard for propriety. But Lola was an impostor, a self-invention. Born Eliza Gilbert, the beautiful Irish wild child escaped a stifling marriage and reimagined herself as Lola the Sevillian flamenco dancer and noblewoman, choosing a life of adventure, fame, sex, and scandal rather than submitting to the strictures of her era.
Lola cast her spell on the European aristocracy and the most famous intellectuals and artists of the time, including Alexandre Dumas, Franz Liszt, and George Sand, and became the obsession of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She then set out for the New World, arriving in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush, where she lived like a pioneer and performed for rowdy miners before making her way to New York. There, her inevitable downfall was every bit as dramatic as her rise. Yet there was one final reinvention to come for the most defiant woman of the Victorian age―a woman known as a “savage beauty” who was idolized, romanticized, vilified, truly known by no one, and a century ahead of her time.
Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal & Celebrity
ASIN : B08P4PKNSR
Publisher : Amazon Crossing (September 1, 2021)
Publication date : September 1, 2021
Language : English
Print length : 432 pages
Page numbers source ISBN : 1542025095
The publisher referenced the song “Whatever Lola Wants,” (Lola gets) in the introduction to the book and that’s the song that came to mind as I got well into this story. The Lola who captivated London audiences when she was on stage and later stole the heart of King Ludwig was at times the most self-centered and egotistical woman I’ve ever met in the pages of a book.
However, she was also an incredibly strong woman, not daunted by the horrific conditions in parts of India where her husband was stationed or the great disappointment of of being sent back to England after her husband’s death. I felt sorry for Lola, who was born as Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert, for having a mother who was jealous of her beauty and seemed to not ever have truly loved this child of hers.
But I didn’t feel sorry for Lola for long. I actually felt sorrier for King Ludwig.
Still, I had to admire a woman who could accomplish so much and find her way out of whatever hole in which she found herself.
I highly recommend this book to those interested in history, especially small segments of history that perhaps are unfamiliar. For instance, it was fascinating to see what it was like for people in theater at that time, and I found the peek into the life of the nobility in Paris likewise intriguing. It amused me to read how ladies would change clothes frequently throughout the day because they couldn’t be seen at a luncheon in the same outfit they had worn to a morning social gathering. Then again they had to change for afternoon at the races and yet again for the evening meals. I laughed because I change clothes frequently because of a broken body temperature regulator. I wonder if I could put myself in the same category as the Parisian elite?
Eh, probably not.
Do add this well-written and researched book to your reading list.
Born in Barcelona in 1961, Cristina Morató is a journalist, reporter, and author dedicated to writing about the lives of great women innovators and explorers that history has overlooked. Her research, tracing the footsteps of these remarkable women, has led her to travel to more than forty countries and has resulted in eight biographies: Viajeras intrépidas y aventureras (Intrepid and Adventurous Women Travelers); Las Reinas de África (African Queens); Las Damas de Oriente (Ladies of the East); Cautiva en Arabia (Arabian Captive); Divas rebeldes (Rebel Divas); Reinas malditas (Tragic Queens); Diosas de Hollywood (Hollywood Goddesses); and Divina Lola (Divine Lola), Cristina’s first to be translated into English. She is a founding member and the current vice president of the Spanish Geographical Society and belongs to the Royal Geographic Society of London. For more information visit www.cristinamorato.com/home-2.