“Sarah Bernhardt was a woman of fearless strength and awe-inspiring talent, both a living icon in her day and an unapologetic iconoclast. In his beautiful The First Actress, C. W. Gortner gives readers an intimate and rich portrait of Bernhardt’s stunning career and tumultuous personal life. The Divine Sarah was a singular leading lady ahead of her time, winning devotees and breaking rules in order to demand more for artists and for women.”—Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
“C. W. Gortner has made his mark illuminating the private lives and untold stories of the world’s greatest women. In The First Actress, he turns his talent to Sarah Bernhardt, the daughter of a Dutch Jewish courtesan who would rise over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to become an icon of stage and screen. Readers will revel in the gloriously heady mix of love and war, and art and society. Combining immaculate research with scintillating prose and an unforgettable cast of larger-than-life characters, The First Actress stands tall among Gortner’s remarkable body of work.”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
“Gortner’s fluid first-person prose paints a vivid portrait in an immersive, hard-to-put-down drama. . . . Highly recommended.”—Historical Novels Review (Editor’s Choice)
“A literal drama queen, the historical Bernhardt provides a great wealth of material—sleeping in a coffin, keeping pumas as pets, the circles in which she moved with the likes of Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde—for the creation of a colorful melodrama, equal parts flamboyancy and pathos. Since Bernhardt loved to extravagantly mythologize her own story, she would doubtless delight in Gortner’s first-person fictionalization of her extraordinary life.”—Booklist
“A compelling portrait that will certainly whet readers’ appetites to learn more about this charismatic figure . . .
recommended for fans of Melanie Benjamin and Allison Pataki.”—Library Journal