Saturday, June 28, 2014

My review of I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

A novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas’s great romance from the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

The young Mary Cassatt never thought moving to Paris after the Civil War to be an artist was going to be easy, but when, after a decade of work, her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary’s fierce determination wavers. Her father is begging her to return to Philadelphia to find a husband before it is too late, her sister Lydia is falling mysteriously ill, and worse, Mary is beginning to doubt herself. Then one evening a friend introduces her to Edgar Degas and her life changes forever. Years later she will learn that he had begged for the introduction, but in that moment their meeting seems a miracle. So begins the defining period of her life and the most tempestuous of relationships.


  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780670785797
  • 352  Pages
  • Viking Books
  • Adult


"Paint Love, He once said to her, You must always paint love." 

 

 

 Mary Cassatt at the Louvre by Edgar Degas, 1879-80

A beautiful love story but not what one would immediately think of as a love story. I Always Loved You is lusciously written bringing to life the lives and passions of Degas, Cassatt and their friends Monet, both Manet's, Morisot as well as Gustave Caillebotte and writer Emile Zola. The novel is broken up into parts titled by years only each chapter covering different artists performing a balancing act that is very hard to do let alone write about. For instance, one chapter could be about Degas and Cassatt and then another about Berthe Morisot and Edouard and their lives and family members.

La Belle Epoque France is brought surrealistically to life. One feels as if they are walking down the street alongside these great Impressionist painters as in Caillebotte's, Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877). I Always Loved You brings us these struggling young artists during the years 1877 through the aging of Degas and Cassatt who both live to see their elderly years; sadly, outliving their dear friends. The chapters bounce around covering important years in the artists lives 1881-1883 specifically. It is not a chronological love story in the retelling, so if you want the sweeping love story you will be disappointed.

Author, Robin Oliveira has done a very brave thing with her novel, I Always Loved You. She has written about the love of art itself, the love of painting on a blank canvas itself, the love of life from an artistic perspective, the friendship of these artists is not always brought to life with affection but it is realistically told with jealousy, fighting, sickness and death that real life human beings experience and reflect back on in later years. 

 There is nothing but love written about within these pages, passionately expressed, heartbreakingly told and impeccably researched. This is the novel I love; it is not a revisionist novel where you destroy the real lives and history to selfishly satisfy and write the novel to suit your needs. 

The female friendships are also vividly brought to life as well. For instance, the real relationship between lifelong friends Mary Cassatt and Abigail Alcott who I discovered was a painter in her own right. Yes, she was the sister of Louisa May Alcott. I truly loved this novel, especially, the final years of Cassatt and Degas, both old with eyesight and vision problems. Who knows if they really did fall in love and have a love relationship. Wondering is half the fun but the author's perspective she brought to the pages was one of a love born of an artistic friendship where both were fearful of ruining who they were separately and artistically with romance and the idea of marriage. After all, they saw firsthand what happened between their dear friends Eugene Manet and Berthe Morisot.


Mary Cassat at the Louvre by Edgar Degas, 1879-80

Robin Oliveria received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for a work-in-progress for My Name Is Mary Sutter. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and two children.

 Thank you to Penguin Group/Viking for providing me with a free copy for my honest and fair review. 

If you want more information on the author,  Robin Oliveira

To contact the publishing group,  Penguin Group



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jane Austen's Country Life by Deirdre Le Faye: A Review

Jane Austen lived for nearly all her life in two Hampshire villages: for 25 years in her birthplace of Steventon, and then for the last 8 years of her life in Chawton, during which latter period she wrote and published her great novels. While there are plenty of books describing her periods of urban life in Bath, Southampton and London, and the summer holidays in Lyme Regis and other West Country seaside resorts, no consideration has been given to this rural background to her life. Her father was not only the rector of Steventon but a farmer there as well, managing a property of some 200 acres. Her brother Edward, in addition, was a large landowner, holding the three estates of Godmersham in Kent, Steventon and Chawton in Hampshire. Agriculture in all its aspects was even more important to Jane than clerical life or the naval careers of her younger brothers.

This book fills a gap in the Austen family background, discussing the state of agriculture in general in the south of England during the wartime conditions which lasted for most of Jane Austen's life, and considering in particular the villages and their inhabitants, the weather conditions, field crops, farm and domestic animals, and the Austens' household economy and rural way of life. All appear in Austen's letters, and appear also unobtrusively in her novels, lending that air of verisimilitude for which her works are famous. Apart from these obvious sources, there are other Austen family manuscripts, as yet unpublished, which provide particular and unique information.


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 1st 2014 by Frances Lincoln

"She sighed for the air, the liberty, the quiet of the country."

Mariana Dashwood, Sense &Sensibility


Work and Play in the Kitchen, watercolour by Thomas Heaphy (1775-1835) private collection, Bridgemann Art Library

This is not a novel nor is it a biography of Jane Austen's life. Instead, Deirdre Le Faye has passionately written and researched the life of The Austen Family while keeping the focus on how the rural aspect of their life influenced their family dynamic. It is fascinating and challenging reading very well researched while taking great strides to include not only excerpts from Jane and her siblings but her parents Mr. and Mrs. Austen as well. I cannot say how much I loved reading Jane's mother's letters and descriptions of tending her garden throughout all four seasons, her livestock, her family dynamic as a wife and mother as well. If that is not enough, you also get the male perspective on rural family life with the religious undertone of the head of the family, Mr. Austen himself!

This is a beautiful hardcover book, illustrated throughout with period paintings, maps, engravings and etchings from famous artists of the eighteenth century. How lovely it was to turn page after page and see a rural painting next to the letters of The Austen Family living in two Hampshire towns i.e. Steventon and Chawton. Also, as an American and glorified Anglophile, the British or English countryside cottage vs. township aspect of rural life was not lost on me. Real history and familial relationships are discussed and preserved with respect in, Jane Austen's Country Life.

I must impress the point that in Jane Austen's Country Life you get exactly that. Aspects of The Austen Family life in two rural towns is provided chronologically while reading their letters but also very dense geographical and topographical seasonal dry writing chapter after chapter giving a rare realistic glimpse into eighteenth century living of a poor family struggling to make ends meet. Reading this might be serious at times but it is also fascinating to gain insight into rural familial life. Thankfully, some Austen family letters have been preserved enough to get a dense understanding of who they were and how they loved and supported each other.  I often wondered that if Jane Austen had not become so popular and if her novels had not survived decade after decade, would we have ever known about them? The Austen's were just another family surviving on a farm, season after season.  It is easy to forget how hard people had it in this time of instant gratification and with technology at our fingertips. There is no such thing as privacy anymore with email's being shared publicly and sites like Twitter and Instagram we have forgotten as a human race what it is like to write a letter by hand and mail it in an envelope with a stamp or not have our iphones at the ready! 
I hope everyone who wants to know what country life was like for Jane's immediate family and how her family made it into her novels, please give Jane Austen's Country Life a chance and harken back to a simpler time.  

I was given a copy of Jane Austen's Country Life in exchange for my honest review. Thank you,  Frances Lincoln Publishers


Chawton Cottage, Hampshire, drawing by A. H. Hallam Murray, 1897.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Upcoming Reads and Reviews of 2014!

Just a quick post to let you know some of the released and soon-to-be-released books you can expect me to review here.  They are chosen for the personal love of the subject matter and for fun!  In no particular order:


Jane Austen lived for nearly all her life in two Hampshire villages: for 25 years in her birthplace of Steventon, and then for the last 8 years of her life in Chawton, during which she wrote and published her great novels. While there are plenty of books describing her periods of urban life in Bath, Southampton and London, and the summer holidays in Lyme Regis and other West Country seaside resorts, no book has given consideration to the rural background of her life. Her father was not only the rector of Steventon but a farmer there as well, managing a property of some 200 acres. Her brother Edward, in addition, was a large landowner, holding the three estates of Godmersham in Kent, Steventon and Chawton in Hampshire. Agriculture, in all its aspects, was even more important to Jane than clerical life or the naval careers of her younger brothers. This book fills a gap in the Austen family background, discussing the state of agriculture in general in the south of England during the wartime, conditions which lasted for most of Jane Austen's life, and considering in particular the villages and their inhabitants, the weather conditions, field crops, farm and domestic animals, and the Austens' household economy and rural way of life. Apart from these obvious sources, there are other Austen family manuscripts, as yet unpublished, which provide particular and unique information. Richly illustrated with contemporary depictions of country folk, landscapes and animals, Jane Austen's Country Life conjures up a world which has vanished more than the familiar regency townscapes of Bath or London, but which is no less important to an understanding of this most treasured writer's life and work.
Author Deirdre Le Faye

Hardcover 256 pages
Publisher Frances Lincoln
Publisher Date June 1, 2014                                             






The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the twentieth century.

Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA 




  
A novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas’s great romance from the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

The young Mary Cassatt never thought moving to Paris after the Civil War to be an artist was going to be easy, but when, after a decade of work, her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary’s fierce determination wavers. Her father is begging her to return to Philadelphia to find a husband before it is too late, her sister Lydia is falling mysteriously ill, and worse, Mary is beginning to doubt herself. Then one evening a friend introduces her to Edgar Degas and her life changes forever. Years later she will learn that he had begged for the introduction, but in that moment their meeting seems a miracle. So begins the defining period of her life and the most tempestuous of relationships.

In I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira brilliantly re-creates the irresistible world of Belle Époque Paris, writing with grace and uncommon insight into the passion and foibles of the human heart.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2014) 


HONORABLE MENTION:  Although, this next novel is not 'technically' nineteenth century and Victorian themed, I have always loved the 'true' romance of Heloise and Abelard. So, I will review the upcoming novel and I couldn't be happier: 



Heloise and Abelard, the original "star-crossed" lovers -- before Romeo & Juliet – dare to live, and love, on their own terms in 12th-century Paris, then lose all in one tragic stroke.

He is the most famous philosopher in the world, the arrogant headmaster of the Notre Dame Cloister School, and a poet whose songs and good looks make women swoon. She is Paris’s most brilliant young scholar, beautiful and wry, and his student. Forbidden by the church and society to love each other, Heloise and Abelard defy the rules to follow their hearts, risking everything that matters to them — including each other. An illicit child, a secret marriage, an abusive uncle: nothing, it seems, can come between them — until a vicious attack tears them apart forever. Or does it?

Sherry Jones’s THE SHARP HOOK OF LOVE is the first re-telling of this much-loved tale since the discovery, in 1999, of 113 “Lost Love Letters” between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard. Incorporating excerpts from these beautiful letters, THE SHARP HOOK OF LOVE offers an intimate, erotic account of one of the most famous couples of all time, and explores the meaning of true love and the sacrifice it demands.

Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: November 25th 2014 by Gallery Books

Well, that's it for now and the immediate future!  I hope you all enjoy what's coming next and please check back in again as future posts appear.  Thank you all for your love and support. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Upcoming Exhibition: Ellen Terry: The Painter's Actress (10 June to 9 November 2014) Watts Gallery, UK

Watts Gallery a museum in the heart of Surrey in England is the location of this Ellen Terry exhibit. The gallery was built upon the request of the artist himself, G.F. Watts to serve as a work space for fellow artists. G.F. Watts was the husband of a young teenage British nineteenth century theatre actress Ellen Terry who is depicted in Watts' painting above, 'choosing.'  The gallery describes this exhibit, 'Ellen Terry: The Painter’s Actress will be the first exhibition to explore how the influence of Britain’s most famous Victorian actress reached beyond the stage to inspire generations of visual artists. Bringing together paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and film – including material rarely or never previously exhibited – the show will trace Ellen Terry’s journey from emerging teenage starlet to cultural icon.' I wish they would have decided upon a more apt exhibition title. I mean she was so much more than 'The Painter's Actress' unless of course you are referring only to her years as Mrs. Watts!  Not only will this exhibit be at Watts Gallery it is also happening as part of The Guildford Summer Festival.

For more exhibit information,  Watts Gallery

For more information about,  Guildford Summer Festival

Watts Gallery 

If you would like to read my article I wrote a few years ago,  Ellen Terry


Thank you and Farewell

This will be my last and final blog post. Due to my work schedule and private life, I sadly must bring this blog to a close. It is no...