The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is a tale of an opera singer, told in an operatic style. A work of fiction that includes real historical figures, The Queen of the Night features Lilliet Berne, an opera singer with a powerful but delicate voice. She is given an opportunity to perform an original role, but realizes it is written by someone who knew her, complete with her difficult past. Only four people could have betrayed her, and she sets out to find out who that is.
While Lilliet seeks out her betrayer, we learn what a survivor she was. A lesser woman would have broken down at many points along Lilliet’s journey, but she prevails, over and over and over again. She finds her way through constant reinvention, including her name, which she took to erase her humble roots. Chee expresses with great tenderness the difficulties of being a woman in Lilliet’s time. In fact, I was astounded at how well Chee seems to understand a female’s plight.