Sarah Horowitz, "The Red Widow: The Scandal That Shook Paris and the Woman Behind It All" (Sourcebooks, 2022)


Sex. Lies. Murder. Sarah Horowitz's The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind It All (Sourcebooks, 2022) is a book I literally couldn't put down. Drawing on extensive research into the world and life of its "leading lady," Marguerite ("Meg") Steinheil, Horowitz's account is captivating at every turn. With all of the appeal of the best true crime, the book brings historical depth and nuance to a scandalous and salacious narrative of bourgeois life in the French capital. From one compelling chapter to the next, The Red Widow situates Meg's story within the context of a French society in which gender, class, political and public spectacle shaped individual, family, and collective life in complex ways.

In our conversation, Sarah and I discussed how she first stumbled upon Meg's story, the researching and writing of the book (completed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic!), as well as how and why she decided to write a book that would be accessible to a wider readership beyond academia. Part biography, part narrative of sexual and criminal intrigue, part interrogation of the values, expectations, and preoccupations of Belle Epoque culture, the book is both exciting and smart. I dare listeners not to find it all fascinating...

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Roxanne Panchasi

Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and empire. She is the founding host of New Books in French Studies, a channel launched in 2013.

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