Madam: A Novel of New Orleans
Madam: A Novel of New Orleans follows the true story of Mary Deubler, a back- alley whore born into the licentious world of late 19th-century New Orleans. Mary comes from a long line of prostitutes but dreams about a better life in order to provide for her younger brother, Peter, and his wife, Charlotte. In this novel set against the push for a regulated district of vice, Mary must overcome tragedy and heartbreak on her rise to become New Orleans’ most famous madam.
New Orleans has always been a city set apart, and the world of sweltering temperatures, corruption, ragtime, and voodoo is brought vividly to life. In addition to Mary, this novel features a wide cast of characters, all interconnected in their dealings: Tom Anderson, the savvy but ruthless ruler of the New Orleans underworld; Countess Lulu White, the city’s premiere madam and queen of the demimonde; Ferdinand, an educated octoroon musician fighting against Jim Crow and the oppression of the late 19th century; and finally Sidney Story, the alderman who originated the district that would become known as Storyville. While they are all diverse and interesting, the sheer number of perspectives keeps the focus of the novel off Mary, who is the most fascinating of all. Madam ends with Mary’s transformation into Josie Arlington and, to some extent, suffers from it. Fewer deviations from Mary’s story would have allowed for more detail once she had achieved her fame; instead, the reader is treated to an epilogue written by Mary’s niece, Anna.
Despite these drawbacks, Madam is a fascinating account of New Orleans’ unsavory history and is recommended for lovers of New Orleans and general historical fiction readers.