Robert Tallant: "The Voodoo Queen"

I bought this novel on my trip to New Orleans in March 2009 in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple along with Robert Tallant's other work Voodoo in New Orleans, a collection of accounts of Voodoo practices and believers.
Here's the text on the back of the book:

"Witch? Sorceress? Daughter of Satan? Murderer? Thief? Saint? Which label best fits Marie Laveau? Queen of the Voodoos, she is considered to have been the most important voodooienne ever to have reigned on this continent. Robert Tallant, attempted to make use of all available facts and information in re-creating the life of this famous woman. Marie Laveau, the last and most stories American Sorceress, continues to weave her spell as those who read this fascinating portrait will discover."

The novel is a fictionalized biography of the mysterious Marie Laveau, an attempt to explain what her life could have been starting from the little known pieces. She was a Voodoo queen, she was a hairdresser, she got married once and gave birth to many children, she got a house for helping a rich man's son to win his trial, she fed prisoners close to hanging, she was called a good Catholic and famous for her gris-gris.
As I read Tallant's Voodoo in New Orleans beforehand, I knew how what Tallant considered the basic elements of Marie Laveau's characters, using her appearances in newspapers to structure her life. In the novel, we start with a young Marie who gets married to her soulmate. But her few contacts with Voodoo priestesses estrange her skeptic husband from her and she finally looses him to the sea. To make a living, she works as a hairdresser - a position which will be very useful to her later, as it gives her insight into society gossip (and therefore power over potential clients) and control over the slave grapevine. Slowly, she becomes a known and feared figure within the Voodoos and reaches the status of queen.
The whole novel shows her struggle to manage her family, do her work (Voodoo) and keep her position against several rivals, make a living and salve her conscience when her Catholicism puts her in front of a dilemma. At some moments, Marie can seem selfish, because she does not behave very motherly towards her children and does not know them all too well. But the more one gets into the story, the more becomes clear, that Marie Laveau is simply a business woman of her time. Her attempts of managing and succeeding in every aspect in her life are rarely that successful, as she either looses her clients, her followers or her family. Her love life is a compromise after the loss of her husband, as she only slowly agrees to allow Glapion in her life. In her last years, she refuses that her male best friend and companion becomes more to her and finishes her life as the solitary woman she had always been, despite her many children and acquaintances.

I liked this novel very much because I did not take it as a biography - for that, there was too much speculation and pure fiction. But Tallant's work is a nice attempt to draw Marie Laveau's personality and I see her with different eyes now that I have read how she could have maybe lived. Beyond that, this novel is of great value to any New Orleans-lover as it depicts the exciting city at its peak of a melting pot of Spaniards, Creoles, French/Cajuns, Americans, free Blacks and slaves.


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Constantly changing places is inherent to my life. Books have always been steady friends which I could bump into wherever I was all over the world.
Stumbling upon Kaminer's German stories of "Die Reise nach Trulala" in Reykjavík's city library is as moving as meeting the Icelandic sagas in Boston's Borders.
To see a book again, that I've read thousands of kilometers away makes me smile "Hey I know you.." and shake hands by thumbing through it for a while.