A review of Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland
Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.
With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Random House (August 26, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400068177
- ISBN-13: 978-1400068173
The second issue I have with this novel is it reads more as a reference guide between the topography of Provence juxtaposed against the paintings of Pisarro and Cezanne. For instance, the colors of the landscape, the rich browns, greens, and orange hues are richly presented through painting descriptions. I got the feeling that the author did not want to write a novel at all but longed to write more about the beauty of Provence through its painters. Also, there is this list that Lisette writes of 'vows' she makes to herself about life after advice from Pascal. So, weaved throughout Lisette's List is a sociological thread of life lessons and her passion for painting. Many mixed messages are presented as Lisette's life changes and she tries to grow emotionally. Another issue I had was the aspect of the novel that deals with 'the hidden paintings' that Andre hides before going off to war. He does not tell his wife anything about it and by the time the reader finds out the reasons and explanations behind the 'true' hiding of these paintings, it is so implausible that I wish the author would have taken more time to incorporate a stronger plot twist and fleshed out the characters a bit more. As the years progress Lisette does not emotionally grow or evolve; instead she puts so much effort in to maintaining her male friendships it negates her 'list'. I just felt so frustrated reading, Lisette's List and sadly I truly could not connect with the characters and wanted more of a solid foundation behind the hidden paintings and her list. It just didn't support her emotional stability as a written character.
Susan Vreeland's love for Provence shines within the pages of Lisette's List as does her passion for art. I just believe that this novel was not the right one for me but perhaps it will be for you!
I was given a free review copy in exchange for my honest and fair review so thank you, Random House
Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland will be published on August 26, 2014 in the USA. You can purchase it at, Amazon