Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
“Koja can pack a lot Dickensian humor into a sentence.”—The Plain Dealer
Under the Poppy is a brothel owned by Decca and Rupert. Decca is in love with Rupert but he in turn is in love with her brother, Istvan. When Istvan comes back to town, louche puppet troupe in tow, the lines of their age-old desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war.
Hearts are broken when old betrayals and new alliances—not just their own—take shape, as the townsmen seek refuge from the onslaught of history by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan’s naughty puppets.
When the war gets too close, Istvan and Rupert abandon the Poppy and find a place in high society where they try to avoid becoming more than puppets themselves in the hands of those they have helped before and who now want to use them again.
From its explosive beginning to the final climax, Under the Poppy is a vivid, sexy, behind-the-scenes historical novel as delicious and intoxicating as the best guilty pleasure.
Under the Poppy has been on my list forever, since Memory first brought it to my attention during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I mean, c’mon, historical fiction with queer representation? I’m already there. I also don’t know much about Brussels in the 1870s, so I’m quite ready to learn.
Memory, obviously, loved it. Lisa at Alive on the Shelves enjoyed it thoroughly, even if its density made it opaque at points. Christy B at Readin’ and Dreamin’ also enjoyed it, although she found the first half quite slow. Ash at Experiments in Reading enjoyed it, but found the stylings too self-conscious to wholly connect with.
Under the Poppy was published on November 9, 2010.