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Matisse Stories

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  2,070 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
These three stories celebrate the eye even as they reveal its unexpected proximity to the heart. For if each of A.S. Byatt's narratives is in some way inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each is also about the intimate connection between seeing and feeling--about the ways in which a glance we meant to be casual may suddenly call forth the deepest reserves of our being ...more
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Published October 29th 2009 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published December 12th 1991)
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Another wonderful short-story collection from Byatt. As always, her descriptions of everyday life and items are exceptional. Having just visited a Matisse exhibition a couple of months ago, learning more about his paintings and his temperament was very interesting. I had no idea Matisse was considered to be a misogynist, for example. The main theme of this book is of course art, pretty fitting as I consider Byatt to be an artist of words. She's also a very knowledgeable writer and reading these ...more
May 24, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonfaith by: Ceridwen Sock Puppet
My glibly tossed five stars register an exquisite afternoon as much as this collection of three jewels from Dame Byatt. All three caught me unexpected. Medusa's Ankle's recalled the lead story in Pulse by Julian Barnes, though I could be mistaken, perhaps I am thinking of The Lemon Table. Oh well the self-awareness was piercing. Art Work is brillaintly realized work, one which may have been a marvelous novel. The Chinese Lobster likewise was transportive, though it was more whispered verse than ...more
May 10, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
You don't have to be an expert on Matisse or of art theory to understand and appreciate this rich collection of three stories by A.S. Byatt. In each story, Byatt frames a scenario with a Matisse painting in such a way that the story is not about the painting itself, but of the characters and they way life is reflected as if looking through a piece of art. The prose is lush in color and texture. Although art and art history are sprinkled throughout, these subjects aren't forced in a dry way and f ...more
Sep 17, 2010 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A ritual Japan celebrates every year is blossom viewing. Before it really becomes warm, everyone is daydreaming of a slow wave of cherry blossoms blushing from the south to the north of Japan, in the wake of the gradual thermal tsunami known as Spring.

One can imagine that it is not the Japanese contemplating the cherry trees--but the trees themselves, opening their trillions of little floral eyes to take in the Japanese--that had long ago instituted the ritual of viewing the blossoms. In anci
Sep 29, 2014 Deea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This book reminds me of Murakami's volume of short stories called "After the Quake". Just like all the stories in that volume are not about the quake, and this phenomenon is just the background common theme to the stories, Byatts stories are not about Matisse, nor do they involve the painter in any way. What they have in common is Matisse's works of art: in the first story, a woman chooses her hairdresser's salon after she sees a Matisse painting inside (The Rosy Nude), the second story is portr ...more
Oct 15, 2010 SarahC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
The Matisse Stories are a collection of Byatt’s modern stories, which I have set my mind to investigating throughout the coming year. This is a short volume of stories that are all influenced in some way by the art of French artist Henri Matisse, developer of Fauvism. [When I hear mention of Matisse, The Goldfish painting comes to mind, the only framed print of his work that I own and see regularly.]

Byatt incorporates ideas of Matisse’s art, but they aren’t “themes” of the stories. The stories a
I'm always torn with A.S. Byatt. I absolutely adore some of her work; I'm looking forward to revisiting Ragnarök some day soon, and The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever read. On the other hand, Possession? Couldn't even get halfway through. The Matisse Stories were somewhat in between for me. Not exciting, perhaps, but engaging in the way that Byatt is engaging: She has a talent for taking small, unexceptional things and getting into their depths. Of co ...more
Sep 10, 2007 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you and you and you
Shelves: fiction
Byatt is probably my favorite author. Everything she writes is so elegant and an advertisement for the depth and breadth of her knowledge. But these stories are my favorite. Especially the one about the middle aged woman at the hair salon. Byatt is an expert at conveying the insecurities of a woman who feels her looks are starting to go (which are really everyone's insecurities) and gets lost in the fantastic tales of her flamboyant hair stylist. Color and texture are important in all the storie ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I assigned this book to a reading class. The class was all from the inner city, and they all enjoyed the stories so much so that even the quiet ones discussed them in class. It speaks heavily for Byatt's writing style that her work can connect with students who have such a different background than hers.
Jun 21, 2009 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There should be a green star for "read it, but don't remember a thing about it," altho that in itself is sort of a review.
Charles Bechtel
I am often depressed by AS Byatt after reading the works, and not because of the works. What depresses me is her focus of narrative subject. She has the knack of selecting the least interesting participant of her stories as the one with which to identify. In The Matisse Stories, she successfully finds the most boring, dithery and dullest women on whom to lavish attention. What depresses me even more is that she disappoints me, in that she has an obvious and marvelous narrative talent, but no tas ...more
Oct 09, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Earlier this year I was reading a blog where Australian author Kate Forsyth listed and shared her reviews for the books she had read in March, 2016.

One review caught my eye: The Matisse stories by A.S. Byatt.

While I had only ever read one A.S. Byatt book before (The Children's Book), I felt this was a book I wanted to read, and as luck would have it, I found this copy at a second hand market.

The physical book is adorable. Small, hardcovered, with a paper slipcover, in lovely blue and featuring M
Karen Williams
Aug 20, 2009 Karen Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there is one thing to be said about this very small collection of stories, it is that A.S. Byatt herself is a artist, not only with words, but with paint and brush. Her knowledge of colour schemes seem to pop out at you while describing the smallest things in the most oddest scenes. Even when describing the most outrages of outfits worn by one her characters, a Mrs. Sheba Brown, who's own visual paint palette is notably obscure, is most beautifully described in a mesh of tinted vividness.

Nov 21, 2014 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up from the library on a whim. It's a slim book, ie just right for someone with no free time, and I was intrigued by the concept. I'm more aware of Matisse's cut out work, having seen the Tate exhibition earlier in the year but these three short stories seemed to be inspired by his painting which I don't know as well. Nevertheless I found a lot to connect with. The first story slid past me somewhat, perhaps because I read it on the train. The second and the third however resonated ...more
Aug 20, 2016 D.L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These are much more Betty Friedan than typical Byatt material but NOT disappointing! These stories are so sinister in their realism that they feel almost as magical as her other tales. They appealed to me on a deeply personal level and have been a sort of inspiration to new projects in my life. As if I didn't have enough of those....

More about bookish inspiration on my blog:
AS Byatt is one of my favorites and was a Christmas present from my brother/SIL Chris and Kris several years ago (#readmyowndamnbooks). Three beautiful little gems about art and how we determine what is or is not art, particularly women's art. The last story, though, gets a bit off I think but also made me think how we as women sometimes are trained by society to react to opinionated men, particularly in professional situations.
Alan Lengel
Jun 30, 2016 Alan Lengel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wallace Stevens would understand how Matisse regarded the close relationship between art and poetry: the grand, broad colors and the twitching sounds quickly imagined especially in his supine or dancing women. Great stories by A.S. Byatt based or specific paintings.
Louis Arata
Nov 30, 2014 Louis Arata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Byatt has become one of my favorite authors, ever since reading The Children’s Book and Possession. While her style is distinctly her own, it somehow reminds me of George Eliot, another of my favorite authors. Byatt’s care in examining human motivations within social contexts is profound. Her characters have rich internal lives, often kept highly private, and live in a world resplendent with crafted artistry.

Byatt’s backgrounds are full of beads, cups, cloths, paintings, texts that burst with co
Tim Cole
Feb 07, 2013 Tim Cole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reason for reading:
While on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales I visited a number of secondhand bookshops and bought rather a lot of books… this was one of them. AS Byatt won the Booker Prize in 1990 for Possession. What would this offer? A quick glance and the concept had captured my imagination… an impulse buy that worked out well.

About the book:
Three short stories tied together in a straightforward way. All of them, to a greater or lesser degree, have an association with a painting by Matisse. Le
Annmarie Sheahan
Sep 22, 2014 Annmarie Sheahan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this short collection of Byatt stories used at my favorite bookstore last weekend, mostly because I was intrigued by the premise of short stories inspired by Matisse paintings. In the past, I've found Byatt's novels to be rather clunky, wordy, and a bit pretentious, but I've liked her shorter works, and so I thought I would give this a try.

Byatt is a true artist of words, and she writes beautifully. That being said, the first two stories in this collection didn't really hold my inte
Lindsey Stefan
Each story references or centers on a piece by the artist Henri Matisse.
The first is entitled “Medusa’s Ankles.” Susannah is a middle aged translator who picks Lucian’s hairdressing shop because of the Matisse painting she sees through the window. Her time in the salon causes her to reflect on aging and her relationship with her husband.
The second story is “Art Work.” Debbie is a former artist who now works as a design editor for a woman’s magazine so that her husband can continue to create hi
Dec 31, 2008 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short, savory little tome. I read it all in two sittings yesterday, ravenously finishing the last piece on the subway home. These are relatively quiet stories, something I take to be part of the project's investment in capturing a kind of experiential tableau (like the Matisse pieces framing each tale). Each story features an obsessional impulse towards Matisse or art that brings the characters to some sort of revelatory moment. In two of the tales, this insight leads to a kind of break from q ...more
Apr 07, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book of short stories because A.S. Byatt has been a favorite ever since "Possession."
The title intrigued me because I have a very special connection to the art of Henri Matisse. So inspired by his paintings, I even named one of my cats after him. I was interested to see how the lives of the characters of these stories were affected by his art and colors as well.
All three stories in the book are very atmospheric and filled with vivid imagery.
My favorite story in the collection
Jul 11, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short story collection covers three very different stories but linked through different Matisse paintings, art then and how we engage with it are central to these stories. The first is a witty tale on taste, growing older and that strangest of places, the hairdressers. The middle story 'Art Work' is the longest and is a mediation on women, motherhood, the home and creativity. In this story Byatt uses all the tools in her writer's toolbox, introducing us to this household not by sight but so ...more
No, l didn't like this very much at all. I've already professed a lack of interest in Matisse, but it wasn't so much that.. It's more to do with the fact that these are meditations on womanhood, ultimately, and she and I are very different in our expressions of it. -- I agreed with her thoughts on agism. But then she seemed to make the argument that it's curves and violently passionate carnality that truly make one a woman. I've never had curves and I prefer a more gentle sexuality. Really, it's ...more
A collection of three short stories, each one resolves around a Matisse painting, by the author of the award- winning book, 'Possession.' One story deals with a hair salon, another with professors, sexual harassment and a student who hates Matisse, but the one that stood out to me was called 'Art Work.' The story introduces us to a family and their inimitable cleaning lady. Debbie, her artistic husband and her kids depend on their cleaning lady to keep their house running smoothly, but she has s ...more
Aug 08, 2016 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Matisse Stories are only three in number, and each short enough for this reader to wish that there had been more of them, to further explore the multitude of ways in which we see art, the world, ourselves, each other. But perhaps this sampling is enough after all, much like the little dishes comprising the Chinese meal in the third story, to hint at the complexity, incongruity even, of the matter. I enjoyed them all, with the final story perhaps having a slight edge over the other two, but i ...more
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Dec 01, 2012 Guilia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written, I really moved with Byatt's prose, felt her voice the way she formed her sentences (after A Room of One's Own I am particularly observant of these things) I also seem to understand Woolfe's comment on women reading woman literature - it does seem to flow much better - although a very crude generalization, of course, almost useless. Perhaps I should say that when reading Austen's Northanger Abbey, Woolfe's A Room of One's Own and the Matisse Stories very soon after one anothe ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Sharon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this is my first read of A.S. Byatt. I did not find the writing to live up to my expectation from what I have heard of her work. Perhaps something else is a better example of her writing. The stories seem forced to me. Some highlights were the descriptions of Mrs. Brown's art work. I also thought the "chinese Lobster" story was interesting. The lobster story moved this book from 1 to 2 stars for me. Perhaps if I had been able to discuss with my book group, I woudl have been able to appreciate th ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please, add book cover 3 11 Mar 15, 2015 04:41AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: # 32 The Matisse Stories 1 1 Apr 17, 2014 04:41PM  
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
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