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


Pamela Britley said…
I love this novel. It made me want to look at all those paintings again!
Kevin Marsh said…
I just love these paintings by 'the Imprssionists'. Its great that female artists like Cassatt and Morisot were not overlooked in what was then a predominantly male enviroment. This sounds like a fascinating book that would sit nicely on my bookshelf next to my volumes of Impressionists paintings.

Thank you for sharing.
Kimberly Eve said…
Thank you both for your comments. Kevin, I hope you enjoy the novel!