She was the diva of all international opera houses that had sworn never to get married. He was the fighter, the gambler, and the heartbreaker with the angelic face who excelled on stage. Together they were one of the most legendary couples in showbiz history.

In Prima Donna Susan Smit depicts, with a razor-sharp pen, their boundless ambition, their doubts, fears and passionate love that is doomed to fail. But at the same time the novel is the story of an exciting era, in which Europe loses its innocence after a gruesome war; the women’s movement slowly gains power and a mass medium is born that will change the world for good: cinema. With this dazzling novel, based on historic facts, Smit will again touch the hearts of her readers. 


  • Magnificent historical novel, based on the life of world-famous silent actor Lou Tellegen (1883-1934) who was one of the big film stars at the beginning of the 20th century
  • Tellegen, born in the province of Brabant, posed for Rodin, was Sarah Bernhardt’s lover and was married to Geraldine Ferrar, with whom he acted in silent movies
  • A novel about fame, acting, playing, fake versus real,  and the illusion of love


Susan Smit (1974) is a writer and a columnist. So far she has written fourteen successful books.  She has sold more than 35.000 copies of her last novel, Gisèle. 


When Lou and Geraldine arrive in their limousine they stumble upon a crowd near the Forty-Fourth Street Theatre in New York. A broad-shouldered security guard opens the car door and Lou gets out to lend a hand to Geraldine. People gather at the crush barriers to catch a glimpse of the couple on the red carpet. The flashlight of the cameras is blinding his sight and he feels Geraldine’s grip tightening. The only time she plays a part is as a public figure – not on stage, because there she is as genuine as when she is with him at home.

She wears a satin dress, that fits her figure perfectly, but her hair, which she had cut for her part in Joan of Arc, was still short.  It just touches her shoulders and not her waist, as it used to do in curled strands. It’s hard to say if that will ever happen again.  She lost part of her youth without those strands and he finds that hard to swallow. She believes that he finds her prettier than ever. When you love a lot, you lie a lot. 


‘Smit is a generous narrator with an eye for rhythm, who tells a story about dreams and ambitions in the impassioned world of the opera and the rise of cinema, the whimsical feast of love and the fate connected with it. She brings this story so close to us, that it touches you constantly and deeply’ Thomas Verbogt, author of When the Winter is gone




The Netherlands, 1936, the eve of WW II. Adriaan Roland Holst, ‘Jany’ to his friends, Prince of the Poets, and homme à femme, meets the beautiful and talented glass artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht. He feels instantly that they are soulmates, much different from his usual romantic encounters. Soon, Gisèle is adopted by the Roland Holst circle and dedicates her life to art.

In a different part of the country, Mies Peters, a young aspiring actress, dreams of the same. She acknowledges the fact that marriage and motherhood stand in the way of a successful career. To her, Jany is a passionate lover; their love is fuelled by struggle and great moments of bliss.

Mies’ husband Paul feels he’s being made a fool of and seeks solace with the emerging National Socialist Movement. Blinded by his ideals, he leaves for the Eastern Front. At the same time, Jany feels he needs to step down from his ivory tower and take a stand. Gisèle takes a group of Jews into hiding. In the end, the war forces everyone to choose between fighting and giving in, between right and wrong, between love and hate.


  • Susan Smit is a bestselling author and columnist: of her four fiction titles we sold more than 125.000 copies in total
  • Gisèle got great reviews and sold well over 35.000 copies


‘Gisèle proves that Smit possesses a rich imagination that effortlessly holds together a complex historical reality’ Trouw

Gisèle is a fascinating book. Smit unfolds the story of three artists, based on actual facts, in a contemplating style and with a lot of patience’ Het Parool

Vloed already made clear that Susan Smit aged as an author; with Gisèle she proves this observation to be correct. Knowledgeable and with a smooth style the author paints a gripping and moving portrait of an artist.’ De Telegraaf ****

‘A rich and vast novel about love and war. Gisèle proves the author’s strong imagination with which she is able to control a complex historical context.’ Trouw 


During one of her first visits to Joep and Suzanne at their large house in Sint Jansstraat, when she had brought some of her best drawings, Joep had asked if she would be willing to try and enlarge one of his sketches. She liked the idea, but she didn’t dare start in his presence. Only after midnight, when everyone else had gone to bed, had Gisèle stolen from the guest room to the workshop in the garden, where she had chosen a sketch of two apostles. Using charcoal, she had then made a carton, a drawing of the same size as the window it was intended for. Not being used to using so much space, she was cautious and shy, but gradually her strokes grew stronger and more accurate.

At first light, Joep entered the workshop and looked at her in amazement. From the upturned corners of his mouth she concluded that, to her relief, he was pleasantly surprised. She hurried shyly away to catch up on some sleep.







Lebowski Publishers / Oscar van Gelderen


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