The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R.

Written by Carole DeSanti
Review by Jessica Brockmole

When 17-year-old Eugénie leaves her humble home in France’s foie gras country to follow her wealthy lover to Paris, she has dreams of a better life. But dreams are fleeting in the Second Empire, and Eugénie soon finds herself alone, penniless, and pregnant. There are few options for a single woman in 19th-century Paris, and she moves from protector to artist’s studio to brothel. Giving up her daughter in a moment of panic, she then spends the next ten years fighting to get her back. The Franco-Prussian War engulfs Paris just as Eugénie’s past catches up to her, and the city is not the only thing under siege. Confronted with love both old and new, she must decide where her heart lies.

This is a book of beautiful writing yet sometimes dense plotting. I appreciated the subtleties in the storytelling even when I didn’t follow them to their depths. The setting is one I know very little about, which made for an interesting read, but it hindered me at times, as I didn’t have the background into the political situation of the Second Empire or the Franco-Prussian War.