Here at last is the
eagerly awaited new novel from New York Times bestselling author Gail Godwin.
Queen of the Underworld is sweeping and sultry literary fiction, featuring a
memorable young heroine and engaging characters whose intimate dramas
interconnect with hers.
In the summer of 1959, as Castro clamps down on Cuba and its first wave of
exiles flees to the States to wait out what they hope to be his short-lived
reign, Emma Gant, fresh out of college, begins her career as a reporter. Her
fierce ambition and belief in herself are set against the stories swirling
around her, both at the newspaper office and in her downtown Miami hotel, which
is filling up with refugees.
Emma's avid curiosity about life thrives amid the tropical charms and intrigues
of Miami. While toiling at the news desk, she plans the fictional stories she
will write in her spare time. She spends her nights getting to know the Cuban
families in her hoteland rendezvousing with her married lover, Paul
Nightingale, owner of a private Miami Beach club.
As Emma experiences the historical events enveloping the city, she trains her
perceptive eye on the people surrounding her: a newfound Cuban friend who joins
the covert anti-Castro training brigade, a gambling racketeer who poses a grave
threat to Paul, and a former madam, still in her twenties, who becomes both
Emma's obsession and her alter ego. Emma's life, like a complicated dance that
keeps sweeping her off her balance, is suddenly filled with divided loyalties,
shady dealings, romantic and professional setbacks, and, throughout, her adamant
determination to avoid "usurpation" by others and remain the protagonist of her
This is a novel to approach with caution. If you have enjoyed other works by Godwin you might well enjoy this ... however, if you are reading her for the first time you will likely be better served starting with one of her earlier novels which include A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay and Father Melancholy's Daughter.(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
[Godwin's] most autobiographical novel demonstrates a severe lack of authorial distance. [The] novel, which suffers from a deadening lack of psychological insight and a maddening unwillingness to allow events to resonate as they could. .... One can't help but wonder wistfully how Emma's story might have been handled by Henry James -- or even the novelist Gail Godwin.
The New Yorker
The twelfth novel by Godwin, a three-time National Book Award nominee best known for her sharp women characters and Southern sensibility, is a disappointing attempt to recycle in fiction the youthful passion, determination, and self-doubt that she has written about with vitality in recently published journals.
Godwin, a three-time National Book Award nominee, taps into her experiences as a fledgling Florida journalist to render a tale whose ambling, amiable plot is redeemed by a cast of memorable characters.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Godwin has never written more voluptuously, nor had as much fun with a character or setting. Readers will want to search for the autobiographical inspiration for this ravishing novel in Godwin's early journals.
Joyce Carol Oates Queen of the Underworld will be a delight to [Godwin's] many admirers for whom
The Odd Woman and A Mother and Two Daughters remain luminous in memory, like
old, dear friends. Here is the irresistibly readable Godwin voice, tender and
sardonic, warmly romantic and unflinchingly funny. Godwin's new heroine Emma
Gant is as alive on the page as any 'fictitious' character has a right to be and
when Emma takes leave of us, as she does in the startling ending of Queen of the
Underworld, we miss her, and can't help but hope that her adventures in Florida
at the time of the Cuban Revolution will be continued.
Gail Godwin's excellent new novel seems to me to be a muted tragedy about a
soul inside the body of a modern woman navigating through the terra incognita of
Here is a wonderfully engaging story that explores the growth of a young woman beginning her career as a journalist. The inner workings of Emma's life are gracefully presented and marvelously mingled with the workings of the outer world; the combination provides a universe in which the reader is glad to reside.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Nuala Morocco Queen of the Underworld I start every novel with great anticipation of the places and the people I will get to know once the reading gets underway. I was pleasantly intrigued by the main character, and interested in the journey and adventure she was on. Then right when I... Read More
Gail Godwin published her first novel, The Perfectionists, in about 1970;
since then she's produced 12 novels and a number of short stories, plus her
first volume of memoirs. Her second, and I believe final, volume of
memoirs will be published next year and will cover the years 1963-1970.
She is also working on a novel, The Red Nun.
In an interview, Godwin reveals some of the experiences that inspired Queen of the Underworld, and also
explains why she didn't feel compelled to do any field research while writing
"During the two years I was writing Queen of the Underworld, I could
hardly wait to get to my computer. I loved being 22 and hungry again, with a
22-inch waistline, so desperate to succeed and equally terrified I might fail.
The tension was a stimulant. And I loved re-locating myself in the seductive
Miami scene. People said, "Don't you think you ought to fly down to Miami and
sort of brush up on the locale?" I said, "That's the last thing in the world I
want to do: I want the Miami of 1959...
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