Queen of the Underworld: A Novel

Gail Godwin

Ballantine Books,  January 2007

In the summer of 1959, as Castro clamps down on Cuba and its first wave of exiles flee to the States, Emma Gant, fresh out of college, begins her career as a reporter. Emma's avid curiosity about life thrives amid the tropical charms and intrigues of Miami. By day she toils at the news desk, but she spends her nights getting to know the Cuban families in her hotel -- and rendezvousing with her married lover Paul Nightingale, owner of a private Miami Beach club.

As Emma experiences the historic 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. Like a complicated dance that keeps sweeping her off balance, Emma's life is suddenly filled with divided loyalties, shady dealings, romantic and professional setbacks, and, throughout, her adamant determination to remain the protagonist of her own quest.

paperback | ISBN: 9780345483195 | Publication Date: January 2007

"A delight . . . Like other shining females in literature, Emma Gant is, above all and most endearingly, a woman of appetite at life's feast who refuses to nibble when she can devour."
--The Boston Globe

"You would think that by this time America might have produced a dramatic and moving bildungsroman about a female writer in her formative years, something alone the lines of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . . . Finally, after 150 years and more of the novel's evolution in the United States, we have a book that more than fills the role: Gail Godwin's novel Queen of the Underworld."
--Chicago Tribune

"Mesmerizing . . . The wizardry of this novel is its pitchperfect rendition of what it was like to be a true solo artist, a female of ambition coming out of 1950s America."
--The Boston Globe 

"[Queen of the Underworld] crackles with energy . . . The pleasures of Queen of the Underworld are not thematic but visceral . . . just what you would expect and a good deal more." 
--The Seattle Times 

"Gail Godwin's new coming-of-age tale is filled with rich, romantic detail of a city on the cusp of enormous change." 
--The Miami Herald 

"Queen of the Underworld shows a delicious, unrestrained exuberance for the marrow of life. Character virtues and foibles appear in Technicolor detail; plot turns are sensational." 
--The Globe and Mail 

"Captivating . . . [The characters] are memorable and multifaceted . . . Sensitive and sharp portrayals of lives in flux."
--Winston-Salem Journal 

"[Queen of the Underworld has] a gravity that isn't matched by many contemporary tales of young women striving to excel in their careers and their love lives." 
--Rocky Mountain News 

"A beautifully realized world . . . lively, often amusing, and filled with rich historical detail." 
--The Indianapolis Star 

"Well-drawn backgrounds, vibrant characters and delicious detail . . . vivid and juicy." 
--San Antonio Express News 

"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." 
--Joyce Carol Oates 

"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 modern times." 
--Kurt Vonnegut 

"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."
--Elizabeth Strout