cover image Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity

Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity

Cristina Morató trans. from the Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Amazon Crossing, $14.95 (452p) ISBN 978-1-542-02511-9

Journalist Morató (Divas Rebeldes) details in her fascinating English-language debut the scandalous, true-life story of Lola Montez, the queen of self-invention who became one of the 19th century’s most unconventional and maligned divas. Montez “lived for and from the world,” captivating powerful men with her sensuality and achieving worldwide acclaim with little more than her charm. Born in Ireland in 1821 as Eliza Gilbert, she spent her formative years in India before being shipped back to live with distant family in Scotland. Lonely, affection-starved, and “convinced she deserved something better,” Gilbert rushed into the first of three marriages at age 16 before escaping to London and seizing on her exotic looks to transform into the strong-willed Andalusian dancer Lola Montez. In breezy, emphatic narration, Morató traces how Montez became the toast of Paris’s social circles, the lover of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, and eventually the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, until she was forced to flee the country by its outraged citizens. She eventually made her way to the U.S., performing in western mining towns and converting to Christianity before dying of syphilis in New York City in 1861. This twisty chronicle of one woman’s quest for independence is mesmerizing. (Sept.)