Trilby opens in the Latin Quarter of Paris, where Trilby O'Ferrall is working as an artist's model. Her grace and ingenuous charm make a poignant contrast to the cruel magnetism of Svengali, under whose spell she falls. Using hypnotic powers, Svengali shapes her into a virtuoso singer, Europe's most captivating soprano. But her golden voice, and even her life, become fatally tied to him.
Trilby was all the rage when it appeared in 1894, spawning songs, shoes, and most famously, the Trilby hat. This novel holds a mirror up to the art and science of the fin de siècle and to its darkest obsessions - most disturbingly, anti-Semitism - as well as to crime, sexuality and the occult, music and mesmerism, and investigations of hysteria and the unconscious.