Icon Books Advent Calendar Door #6

Posted on 2015/12/06 , tagged as

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Our advent calendar giveaway today has been picked by Andrew Furlow, Icon’s Sales and Marketing Director. It’s Catherine Hewitt’s biography The Mistress of Paris, and here’s why Andrew has chosen it:

The book I’ve most enjoyed publishing this year – though it’s a tough choice! – is Catherine Hewitt’s The Mistress of Paris.

I love the way in which Hewitt weaves the story of Comtesse Valtesse de le Bigne – born into pretty much abject poverty as plain old Louise Delabigne – into an eye-opening portrait of Parisian life in the second half of the nineteenth century. De La Bigne’s life rode the rollercoaster of Parsian experience, and she died a rich woman celebrated across France and indeed much of Europe. She was painted by Manet, was the inspiration for Emile Zola’s scandalous novel Nana and owed art that was the envy of collectors across the continent. So it’s an incredibly rewarding read as you feel you’re learning so much and getting such a feel for the time and place. Reading it in December 2015 of course, with Paris very much in out minds, gives it an extra resonance too.

As someone in marketing I’m also very much an admirer of Valtesse as a PR person or brand manager avant la lettre – the brand of course being herself. She was a brilliant manipulator of her own image, even after her death – just before she died, at 62, she personally addressed a series of elegant notecards, to be delivered across Paris after she had died. They read, simply:

Madame
Valtesse de La Bigne
Did on the 29 July 1910
Remember

Enigmatic and extremely classy, even from the beyond the grave – that is marketing saavy of a very high order…