Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba

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9780807129623: Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba

Born into wealth in New Orleans in 1795 and married into misery fifteen years later, the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba led a life ripe for novelization. Intimate Enemies, however, is the spellbinding true account of this resilient woman's life -- and the three men who most affected its course.

Immediately upon marrying Célestin de Pontalba, Micaela was removed to his family's estate in France. For twenty years her father-in-law attempted to drive her to abandon Célestin; by law he could then seize control of her fortune. He tried dozens of strategies, including at one point instructing the entire Pontalba household to pretend she was invisible. Finally, in 1834, the despairing elder Pontalba trapped Micaela in a bedroom and shot her four times before turning his gun on himself.

Miraculously, she survived. Five years later, after securing both a separation from Célestin and legal power over her wealth, Micaela focused her attention on building, following in the footsteps of her late, illustrious father, Andrés Almonester. Her Parisian mansion, the Hôtel Pontalba, is today the official residence of the American embassy in France; and her Pontalba Buildings, which flank Jackson's Square in New Orleans, form together with her father's St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytere, and Cabildo one of the loveliest architectural complexes in America.

As for Célestin, he eventually suffered a total physical and mental breakdown and begged Micaela to return. She did so, caring for him for the next twenty-three years until her death in 1874.

In Intimate Enemies, Christina Vella embroiders the compelling story of the Almonester-Pontalba alliance against a richly woven background of the events and cultures of two centuries and two vivid societies. She provides a window into the yellow fever epidemics that raged in New Orleans; the rebuilding of Paris, the Paris Commune uprising, and the Second Empire of Napoleon III; European ideas of power, class, money, marriage, and love during the baroness' lifetime and their inflection in the New World setting of New Orleans; medical treatments, legal procedures, imperial court life, banking practices, and much more.

Combining the historian's meticulous research with the biographer's exacting knowledge of her subject and the novelist's gift for narrative, Vella has crafted a rare cross-genre work that will capture the imagination and admiration of every reader.

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About the Author:

Christina Vella writes and lectures in New Orleans and is a consultant for the U.S. State Department. She is author of Indecent Secrets: The Infamous Murri Murder Affair of 1905 and coauthor of The Hitler Kiss: A Memoir of the Czech Resistance.



Christina Vella is an adjunct professor of history at Tulane University and coauthor with Radomir Luza of The Hitler Kiss: A Memoir of the Czech Resistance. She writes, lectures, and teaches in New Orleans, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A charming biography of the Baroness de Pontalba (17951874), a wealthy 19th-century American expatriate. The baroness, born Micaela Almonester, was the daughter of a Spanish immigrant who had made it in the rough-and-tumble commercial world of New Orleans; at 15, she was the sole heir to a considerable fortune. As such, she attracted the attention of the Pontalbas, her aristocratic French cousins. Xavier Pontalba wrote to Micaela's mother to propose to her daughter on behalf of his son, C‚lestin, and in 1811, C‚lestin sailed to America to meet and court his young cousin. The two were married within a month, and Micaela returned with her new family to France. Once there, however, Micaela's troubles began. She was not entirely content with her life in the country estate of her in-laws. Vella (History/Tulane Univ.) writes, with the tongue-in-cheek style that contributes greatly to the book's charm, that ``sixteen-year-olds often look on compost with indifference.'' But the bigger problem came when the dowry of the young heiress was finalized, and the greedy Pontalbas discovered that it was considerably less than they had hoped. Xavier Pontalba, who dominated his weak-willed son, began a war against his daughter-in-law that would last until he ended his own life, in 1834, after shooting Micaela four times at close range and nearly killing her. This dramatic climax was followed by divorce, an interest in construction that took hold of the baroness in her middle years (the home she built in Paris is now the US embassy), and an odd semi-reconciliation between Micaela and an ill C‚lestin as she nursed him for the last 23 years of her own life. While the baroness's story might make a more satisfying novel than biography, Vella makes up for the occasional skimpiness of her material with an easy, elegant style. (36 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Vella, Christina
Editorial: Louisiana State Univ Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 0807129623 ISBN 13: 9780807129623
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Descripción Louisiana State Univ Press, 2004. Soft cover. Estado de conservación: New. No Jacket. 5th or later Edition... NEW/UNUSED/UNMARKED from the Publisher. May have very minor blemishes to the exterior (very light rubbing to the gloss, very light dings) due to contact with other copies, none affect the text. Books are Intact. Interior is New/Exterior is As-New. Not a Remainder, Return, or Previously Owned. U.S. Domestic Tracking/Confirmation Included. Will Ship International, APO/FPO/DPO, PO Boxes, all US 50 States/Territories, and Priority. All orders are packed carefully/securely, with packing materials for quality control, so your order is received as described or better, and shipped directly from our facility to provide fast/personal service. Please contact us anytime for assistance. Thank you for your business![Product Description: A charming biography of the Baroness de Pontalba, born Micaela Almonester, (1795-1874), a wealthy 19th-century American expatriate, who was a daughter of a Spanish Immigrant in New Orleans. This is a very dramatic Biography that could almost pass for a novel. ]. Nº de ref. de la librería ABE-427982356

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