Black Venus by James MacManus


I discovered this book on one of my weekly charity shop raids. As part of the #betterreadschallenge hosted by the guy with the book, I have taken on the challenge to step out of my genre to expand my literature range.

As always, I asked my son to choose my next book adventure. I enjoy doing this with him as it gives me a chance to see which book is interesting to him and it feels exciting to receive a book I have no control over! Like a blind date with my own books!

Black Venus Review

The book is fiction but based around the historical facts surrounding the partnership between Charles Baudelaire and Jeanna Duval. MacManus has spun a wonderful story of how these two extraordinary people met and how their lives intertwined with each other.

I found the story was written in a very high state of emotion or a very low one. The characters never seemed to find the right balance. The characters always found themselves, either with each other or without, in a heightened mood of love and lust or plunging into anger or depression.

As I got deeper into the story, I found it hard to pinpoint whether the love between them was one of true authenticity or one which was based on drug taking. And were the banned poems a product of Baudelaire’s true life perspectives or one which he found himself hallucinating when consuming drugs. I guess it will remain a mystery. But the book did remind me of Lewis famous story, Alice in Wonderland and whether he took the same drug as Baudelaire during the creative process.


Throughout the book, I found myself becoming wired to their emotional instability, wondering if the pair will settle. But it never happened and before I knew it, the characters had grown a couple of decades older with not much to show for their lives, except debt, a loss of connectedness and living out the days with debilitating diseases with no known cure.

However, I am a firm believer that every book will teach you something, no matter how small the lesson.

Set in a time when life and culture were VERY different, these pair were equally determined to make something of themselves. Their determination and passion were met with many difficult situations.

Duval was forever taunted by her appearance, being of different origin and appearance. Baudelaire was criticised for his perspectives on what he observed life and love to be, written in Les Fleurs du Mal, which over the years has been translated into many different languages.

The book taught me that we are not stuck. We have the freedom to be able to do anything we want in life, a lot easier than our characters did in those days. We may come across hardships, but there are always different paths in which we can take and that it is never late to do it.We should never be deterred in finding our own success.

Other lessons to take on board; Love should not be based on drugs.

All in all, a heartbreaking account of lovers who, despite their environment, in the end, found love and happiness.

Rating 4/5

2 thoughts on “Black Venus by James MacManus

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