Review by Booklist Review
In the 1950s, Maria Callas was arguably the world's greatest opera star and Aristotle Onassis was the world's richest man. The sheer force of their respective egos should have pushed them apart, but, instead, the duo had a magnetic physical and emotional chemistry that united them with a supernatural force. In this impeccably researched and richly conjured fictionalization, Goodwin (Victoria, 2016) traces the genesis of their storied affair, through their manufactured meeting at the hands of gossip monger Elsa Maxwell to its headline-generating demise when Onassis married Jackie Kennedy. In doing so, Goodwin positions this and other controversies that dominated Callas' later career in the context of escalating professional and personal discord that made her vulnerable to Onassis' charm. Divas have a reputation for being pampered and demanding, haughty and self-centered. In Goodwin's sensitive hands, Callas is much more complex: passionate yet constrained, strong-willed yet malleable, her intimidating presence masking a mountain of self-doubt. Rich, refined, balanced, and believable, the result is an enthralling portrait of a revered artist and sadly misunderstood woman.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Goodwin (Victoria) returns with a diverting tale of opera singer Maria Callas (1923--1977). A prologue introduces 17-year-old Maria, who's been taken by her headstrong mother from New York City to Athens, Greece, where she studies under the famous soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. The action is split between Maria's career and love life in the 1950s and '60s and her reflections on a difficult childhood. Her mother favored her older and thinner sister, Jackie, and exploited Maria's natural talent by making her sing in the streets of Athens for food during WWII. As a performer, she works hard at her craft with a rigorous rehearsal schedule and adopts a strict diet after losing the top role at La Scala because of her weight. In 1957, she meets Aristotle Onassis, the richest man in the world, who is married, and they begin an affair. Captivated by his extravagant gifts and exhilarating touch, Maria begins to question whether life on stage is all there is. Though Goodwin's portrayal of Maria's troubling family dynamics lack depth--Maria's continued resentment toward her sister later in life is unexamined--the author vividly evokes mid-century celebrity culture in Maria's encounters with Richard Burton, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, and others. Readers will enjoy stepping into the heels of the famous opera performer. (Jan.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Goodwin's (The Fortune Hunter; The Last Duchess) latest historical novel covers more than a decade of world-renowned soprano Maria Callas's life and several foundational childhood flashbacks. When Callas and Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis meet in 1957, they are both married, but a spark is ignited. They soon begin a passionate affair that spans nearly a decade. Callas performs at international venues for adoring fans, is lavishly adorned in Dior and Cartier, enjoys caviar and champagne, and cruises the Mediterranean on Onassis's yacht Christina. Her social circle includes Hollywood royalty and political figureheads such as Princess Grace, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Callas also experiences vulnerability and heartbreak. She is exploited by those closest to her, struggles with her body image, fights jealousy as Onassis openly pursues other women, and worries about prematurely losing her famous voice. VERDICT Brava! Historical-fiction enthusiasts, fans of La Callas, and others will relish this view into the tumultuous love affair of a power couple; they'll offer a standing ovation when, in the novel's "Final Curtain," the opera singer discovers her true voice.--Mary Todd Chesnut
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