Belle Cora (Paperback)
In the home where Arabella Godwin was raised it is forbidden to speak her name, and her picture is turned to the wall. But in the turbulent America of the 1850s, everyone knows her as "Belle Cora," madam of San Francisco's finest bordello. Judges and senators do her bidding; a vicious newspaper editor plots her downfall; a preacher looks at her from across his pulpit and tries to forget that once she was his wife. Merchant's daughter, farm girl, prostitute, mother, madam, murderess, avenger, protector she has worn all these masks: the only thing that never changes is her tireless pursuit of the one man who can see her for who she really is.
About the Author
PHILLIP MARGULIES is the author and editor of many books on science, politics and history for young adults. He has won two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
"A rollicking first novel that tracks an American Moll Flanders on her roller-coaster ride from respectability into quite profitable sin and back again…an enjoyable allegory for the settling of the American West, with plenty of sex and violence along the way… With vivid detail, Margulies depicts a society in which a "ruined" girl has few options… Contemporary readers will, of course, applaud Belle's spunk…We're in the hands of a professional, and a good time of a certain sort is guaranteed."
-The San Francisco Chronicle
“Margulies strikes gold in his first novel… [his]writing never falters, and the reader will easily get lost in the world he’s built. Belle’s remarkable story mirrors that of her young country, on the verge of civil war, and her sharp, engaging voice brings her tale to vivid life.”
-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"The charm and self-invention that served Arabella throughout her life give voice to a story that will captivate historical fiction fans as they follow her exploits during a turbulent era."
- Library Journal
"Belle Cora is historical fiction with a nugget of truth at its core; the heroine is based on a real 19th century madam, and the story is sprinkled with bits of genuine primary sources. The writing is clear and precise, the characters enthralling. It has a bit of a good-girl-gone-bad narrative at the center, but it’s always more about the heroine’s determination to survive by any means than a novel that’s looking for an excuse for its characters to misbehave in a titillating fashion. Above all else, it tells a great story."
"Phillip Margulies has taken the scant known facts about Belle and created a magnificent heroine. Although not always a sympathetic figure, her frankness about her failings and her justification for the artful actions she is often forced to take to guarantee self-preservation make her utterly compelling.
But this is far more than just one woman’s story. It is also an epic detailed exploration of the underbelly of 19th-century America, with all its vice, bigotry, political corruption and religious hypocrisy. The descriptions are rich, the characters well-fleshed, and the novel’s crowning achievement is that it doesn’t try to appease modern sensibilities and presents an honest reflection of this era. A memorable and outstanding work on many levels."
“Gripping, sweeping, and tragic, Belle Cora is the story of an extraordinary woman making her way through an extraordinary time. Part love story, part scandal, part historical epic, Philip Margulies masterfully orchestrates a riveting tale, taking us from the hardboiled streets of New York City to the rich promise of California's goldmines. At its center is a complex, daring woman, a character I won't soon forget. “
- Anton DiSclafani, New York Times bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls
“The past is a foreign country. If, like me, you long to visit 19th century New York and San Francisco, I can't imagine a better time-travel substitute than Belle Cora. This is a splendid feast of a novel.”
-Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and New York Times bestselling author of Heyday and Turn of the Century
“Belle Cora is an enthralling historical drama, the story of a 19th-century Moll Flanders, told with sympathy, feeling, humor, and accuracy. Phillip Margulies is a superb writer.”
—Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd and Paradise Alley
“Pull away…if you can. Tuck this gorgeous, alive story of America back on your book shelf. No, don't. You would deprive yourself of a stunning historical saga, the kind that doesn’t come along every day. You don’t just read Belle Cora. You live it – and you won’t turn your bedside light out for a very long time.”
-Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker and The Daring Ladies of Lowell
“Belle Cora is a wonderfully assured novel, a story to lose yourself in, by turns thrilling, witty and poignant. Phillip Margulies has given us a luminous portrayal of an unforgettable woman. You will be utterly seduced by this alluring story.”
- Margaret Leroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Soldier’s Wife