The Matisse Stories
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The Matisse Stories

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,502 ratings  ·  117 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 Audio, Inc. (first published December 12th 1991)
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Jonfaith
May 24, 2013 Jonfaith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
James
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...more
Kelly
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
SarahC
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...more
Ashley
Sep 10, 2007 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Anie
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
Chris
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.
Ruth
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.
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...more
Karen Williams
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.

It'...more
Tim Cole
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...more
Jamie
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
Elizabeth
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...more
Yogarshi
An afternoon well-spent I would say.

Three short but powerful stories, each inspired by a work by Matisse, which do not require you to be an expert on Matisse to appreciate and enjoy.

Each story is told through the eyes of a different middle aged female protagonist (who can be somebody straight out of a Matisse painting), who finds herself in juxtaposition with a man who can only be described as self-absorbed.
Sarah
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
Darceylaine
Everything she writes is so skillful. And I love this sweet edition, three stories in a tiny book with line drawings by Matisse. As a middle-aged lady myself, it is always refreshing to read fiction that reflects the realities of middle-aged life. The themes are deeper than that though, art, success, despair, decay. Definitely worth reading.
Guilia
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
Melissa
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
Moira McPartlin
I picked this up from a 50p second hand shelf because AS Byatt has been an author I have been meaning to explore for a while. This book of three short stories which uses Matisse and art as a loose theme proved to be a good introduction. I will definitely read more from this author of relaxed yet tight prose.
Sharon
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
Sue
I would have to say that you need to know about some of Matisse’s paintings to get the how the stories coinside. While listening it almost seemed like the stories melt into one another. It seems like the main characters (Translator and wife) are one in the same in each story if you didn’t know any better.

It seems that art is the main theme of each story. The lovely picture hung in the salon. The “housekeeper” that has the collage art show made out of all the “bids & bobs” she gathers at her...more
Karlton
Three stories - two of them (the last two) quite good.
Rowena
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
Tortla
The usual elegant and meandering storytelling. I would love Byatt's short stories, but they so frequently wallow in the disappointments and frustrations of aging...I'm still young, and maybe I'll feel differently when I'm closer to the ages of her middle-age-and-beyond protagonist, but for now the prospect of aging as a sort of crumpling defeat is deeply...horrifying? repulsive? something that makes me want to distance myself from these stories. I'd like to be excited for the prospect of becomin...more
Clare
There are only three stories in this collection, and while they do not astound in the same way Little Black Book of Stories does - Byatt is not at the height of her powers here - they are still enjoyable, especially the final story, "The Chinese Lobster", which I'd read in The New Yorker archives several years ago. It features a weird, anemic art student, clashing with greater, older, well-educated (read: bougie) people, just as "Body Art", from Little Black Book, stars a similar character.
Leslie
I'm not usually the biggest fan of short stories. For this set in particular, I think that I chose the wrong time to read it, as I think I could have gotten more out of it had I been in a different mood. These stories weren't much about plot or character, as I saw it, but were really driven by the language itself. And A.S. Byatt does write with beautiful language. I'm impatient, though, and unless I'm in just the right mood I really need a good story or compelling character to latch on to.
Care
Oct 22, 2008 Care rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Care by: Bought at Winthrop ME Library BookSale
TOO many words I didn't know! Can you say 'vocabulary lesson'? ugh OTherwise, BEAUTIFUL stories about unresolved and resolved tensions, communications, relationships, etc. I can't put my finger on the word I want (see? I DO need a vocab lesson.) Not amusing, not funny, well, maybe if you think DARKLY amusing. but not sinister.... I did love it, if I didn't get irritated that I didn't know some of the words. It makes me wonder about reading any more of Byatt, tho.
Maria Carmo
Apr 29, 2012 Maria Carmo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
A wonderful little book with three short stories, a special sense of humour and a reflexion on Matisse's paintings... Delicious and unexpected! The original text is English.

Um livrinho maravilhoso (embora HORRIVELMENTE mal traduzido) com três contos de subtil sentido de humor em que a autora consegue reflectir sobre a pintura de Matisse... Pena é que a tradução deixe tanto a perder...

Pelo génio da Autora vale mesmo a a pena ler.

Maria Carmo

Lisboa 29 de Abril de 2012.

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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-winning 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 E...more
More about A.S. Byatt...
Possession The Children's Book Angels and Insects The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye The Virgin in the Garden

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