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   In nineteenth-century Paris, the pampered demi-mondaine became almost indistinguishable from the respectable woman of the haut monde, with mythical reputations growing up around the most alluring and favoured celebrities.  Grandes Horizontales examines the lives of four the era's best-known courtesans - Marie Duplessis, La Présidente, La Païva and Cora Pearl - and the men who were their lovers, from Charles Baudelaire to Prince Napoleon.  Artfully weaving together writings of the time as well as the personal letters of the women themselves, Virginia Rounding delivers a provocative look into the shadow-world of Paris.  


 Jane Stevenson in The Observer: "The first fashion victims, they have significant factors in common with more recent women famous for being famous. Their profligacy is easily understood by their own consuming need, which was not for sex or even for love, but for living up to their own reputations, without which they would disappear back into the obscurity from which they emerged. They ended up, consequently, with a lifestyle rather than a life. This is a story which Rounding tells very well."  Read the rest of this review here.

Frances Wilson in The Guardian: "Rounding is strong on the role and etiquette of the courtesan's salon and on the details of her appearance and toilette, but she is as interested in the legends generated by the grandes horizontales as she is in their lives, and she deftly analyses the ways in which fact and fiction bleed into one another in the making of a reputation. While none of her four women knew the others, they knew of one another, and Rounding shapes her narrative so that each life weaves into the next, as lovers are shared and others' legends are consumed. This is a rich, timely, engrossing book that puts its forerunners to shame."  Read the rest of this review here.

Julie Wheelwright in The Independent: "Virginia Rounding's history of four courtesans does much to separate the gloss from the fascinating realities. All her subjects were "fallen women" who understood that once they entered the demi-monde, they could never again be respectable: "No return journey was possible," she writes, "no matter what riches she might amass or works of charity she might undertake." Yet the courtesan's world ran in parallel to bourgeois society, with fashions often borrowing from both and the ladies of twilight entertaining the most powerful men of France."  Read the rest of this review here.

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