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Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,536 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
This richly imagined fiction entices us into the world of Mary Cassatt’s early Impressionist paintings. The story is told by Mary’s sister Lydia, as she poses for five of her sister’s most unusual paintings, which are reproduced in, and form the focal point of each chapter. Ill with Bright’s disease and conscious of her approaching death, Lydia contemplates her world with ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 29th 2002 by Seven Stories Press (first published 2001)
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Jul 23, 2012 SarahC rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful and stirring novel and will likely be my favorite read of the summer.

"When Edgar visits, in the late morning, he looks hot and winded. As I break my pose [she was modeling for her sister Mary's painting], I can see his damp shirt beneath his summer coat. I feel a kind of humming inside me."

How can I not love this novel when I see that this author knows about that humming inside us all? This isn't a sexual scene at all, but sensuous instead. The man described isn't her lover
May 13, 2014 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it
This poignant little novel centered around Mary Cassatt’s life in 1880’s Paris covers much of the same ground as another book I read recently--I always Loved You by Robin Oliveira, a work of fiction which speculates about Cassatt’s relationship with Edgar Degas. Degas, the Cassatt family, and the Paris art scene are brought back to life in this book too, but here the story is told from the point of view of Mary’s beloved but terminally ill sister Lydia, who served as a model in some of Cassatt’s ...more
May 02, 2016 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A perfectly exquisite little book: a novella of five chapters on five portraits of Lydia Cassatt, painted by her sister, the American impressionist, Mary Cassatt. Each consisted of Lydia's meditations on life, illness [Lydia suffered from Bright's Disease], death, and art; her thoughts and memories, interspersed with her descriptions of the modeling sessions for her sister. Also, Lydia attempts an interpretation of each of these five portraits: "Woman reading"; "Tea"; "The Garden"; "Driving"; "L ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Mary Cassatt is one of my guiding angels. Her paintings of women writing letters, drinking tea, reading, and doing needlework illuminate a life I often imagine for myself - a life surrounded by quiet beauty and the leisure to appreciate it.

Harriet Scott Chessman, the author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Papers, has gone beyond the escapist dream by bringing the reader into the life of Lydia Cassatt, the frail older sister who posed for many of Mary Cassatt's best-known paintings. "I have
Apr 14, 2009 Elizabeth added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thoughtful readers
This is a lovely, meditative book written from the point of view of Mary Cassat's dying sister Lydia as she poses for several paintings over some years. It's quiet, but I found it quietly compelling. Does art make one immortal? Is that any consolation for death? The book also looks at Mary Cassat's unorthodox romantic relationship with Edgar Degas, and the choices she makes in order to remain an artist and a relatively independant woman. Finally, the relationship between the sisters is moving, o ...more
In "Sainsbury's Magazine" was written: "Tenderly written... a moving yet unsentimental account of the contrast between life's frailty and art's immortality, as well as a sensitive exploration of the bond between sisters". It is exactly so.

This book is beautiful and gripping at the heart. I feel that I can't describe it as it deserved.

There isn't much plot or action. It is more like a diary or rather a record of flowing thoughts.

Characters of the book were real persons who lived in the second p
Jan 04, 2009 Tara rated it really liked it
I find many books these days start off with great first chapters that have obviously been workshopped/edited to death, then the rest of the book never quite measures up. This is one book I found that started off slowly and roughly (it's a bit fragmented and the author seems to be trying to get in all the facts she researches), but the story slowly builds and the characters come to life and Chessman's views on life, mortality, illness, love, and art are delivered in simple but compelling prose. Y ...more
Jun 05, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Nineteenth Century Paris, Mary Cassat balanced two worlds as a respectable single woman from a good family who thrived in the mileu of the emerging, unconventional Impressionalist art movement. I had long known that Cassat's sister, Lydia, often posed as a model for the artist's admired scenes of domestic tranquility. This book gave me so much more insight into the Cassat family backstory. Artful first-person narration from the point of view of Lydia, who is slowly dying from Bright's disease ...more
May 22, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another "still, small voice"...
What an exquisite, little book! Not only does it perfectly capture the atmosphere of Cassatt's paintings, it resonated with me on a personal level. The narrative is profoundly moving. The prose is fresh, crisp, bright and lovely. I can't wait to read more from this author.

I adore this book so much, I wish I'd written it.
Jul 28, 2009 Holli rated it it was amazing
A lovely, meditative book about the relationship between Mary (painter) and Lydia (model) Cassatt. I read the book in one sitting, in the car on the way home from a very active and people-filled vacation with my husband and sons. Reading it was like a mini-retreat, a nice soothing transition back into my work-a-day life. Sort of a "Calgon, take me away" experience. The sister relationship reminded me of Jane and Cassandra Austen, and the references to drinking tea, crocheting, embroidery, flower ...more
One of the problems with purchasing fiction for a public library is reading all the reviews. Usually after I have done an order with about 50 titles I want to read at least 20 of those books. I am an omnivore - there are few areas of fiction that I won't try. So my to-read list could be seriously large.

However, my solution is to try to forget all those new titles and concentrate on those that made it to my reading list. I always hope that if a book is really good, it will come to my attention ag
Jul 26, 2010 Bonny rated it it was amazing
I finally received a copy from our library. This seems to have been a popular book to reserve lately. It's taken about 2 months for me to get it. It's a small book so I imagine I'll probably finish it today.

It's a glimpse into the life of Mary Cassatt, the painter, and her sister, Lydia. Light but informative reading of the times and her contemporaries - the Impressionist painters many of whom were friends with Mary.

It is also very poignant because it is written in Lyddy's voice as an affirmati
Dec 15, 2014 Laura marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large)
A gift from TA, thank you so much dear friend!!
Rebecca Huston
I have always been a fan of Mary Cassatt's art, and I came away after reading this one with a renewed sense of who she was, and what her art was about. Despite some problems with the novel, I was still impressed by the end; just much too short, and I wanted more about Mary rather than her sister, Lydia. Very much recommended, especially if you like Impressionist art.

For the longer review, please go here:
Shonna Froebel
May 11, 2014 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up from one of my to-be-read piles as a nice slim novel to slip into my purse. I started it just after finishing the book Painted Girls and was interested to see Degas reappear as a character here. Chessman brings us into the life of the American painter Mary Cassatt, who lived in Paris for much of her professional life. She does this through the eyes of Lydia, Mary's older sister.
Lydia suffered from Bright's disease and had more regular flare-ups of debilitation during her la
Jan 23, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This was a surprising little book. It was recommended as a great book for a book club discussion by Reading Group Choices about 10 years ago and I've just now gotten around to reading it. It's a quick read--only 164 pages--and I actually listened to it. I loved the voice of the reader, who is also the author. She just had a light, girlish voice with a slight French accent which was perfect for the story. Lydia Cassatt is a young woman suffering from Bright's disease (which today would probably b ...more
Diane S ☔
Review to follow.
A fictional account on the inspiration behind several of Mary Cassatt's paintings. The story follows the relationship between Mary and her sister Lydia. The book was a little uneven, in my opinion.
Apr 03, 2008 CLM rated it liked it
Nicely packaged but I would have enjoyed it more if a bit more substantial. It felt somewhat written for museum gift shops.
Aug 25, 2015 Valeska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely story.
Apr 12, 2011 Greg rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, literature, art
A friend who is an English professor recommended this book to me. We play in a local symphony together so we already share an artistic link and have also shared a few book/music recommendations with each other (me, more music to him; him, more books to me). He teaches the book and showed me his copy filled with annotations and was very excited about it (he was obviously on the umpteenth re-read). Throughout I was very resistant to the writing style, and to be honest I still don't think I will ev ...more
Mar 10, 2011 Krystle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
Normally, when I read books that are assigned for class, I either deeply abhor them or find a mutual ground between tepid liking or a give or take blasé attitude. But this one I loved, it's beautiful. For such a short book I found a lot of subtle depth throughout the pages. The most fantastic thing about this story is the author's writing. It's gorgeous; poetic and highly lyrical, the sentences were a symphony that had me captivated from start to end.

I love how the author plays with the structur
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
Sep 18, 2008 Kathy (Bermudaonion) rated it really liked it
I wasn’t familiar with Harriet Scott Chessman until I won an autographed copy of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper and now I find myself wondering why. In a word, this book is delightful. The writing is artistic and the photos of Mary Cassatt’s paintings that are featured are stunning. This book is a fictional account of the relationship between the American Impressionist artist Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia. It is set in France in the late 1800’s and focuses on five paintings Mary did ...more
Bethany Andrews
Oct 25, 2010 Bethany Andrews rated it did not like it

I really hate it when I get excited over a book and then it bores me senseless. That's what this one did. Bummer.

Usually, when I write a review, I say something along the lines of "it was well written but.." and usually, what I mean by that is "I didn't really like it much, but I understand what the author was trying to do.." or something to that affect.

In the case of this book, I understand that the author was writing a fictional work about the Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt. Now, eithe
Sep 24, 2012 Annette rated it really liked it
The book centers around the time that Lydia Cassatt was painted five times by her younger sister Mary Cassatt. Lydia is ill with Bright's disease, a kidney disease. Lydia---known in the book as Lyd, and her sister Mary---known as May, live with their parents in an apartment in Paris, France. The time period is 1878 to 1881. During the course of the book Lyd looks back on her life in America, her family, her youth, various young men she knew. She thinks about her family and how they feel about he ...more
Jun 10, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who appreciate books about artists
Shelves: favorites
Like Tracy Chevalier’s _Girl with a Pearl Earring_, Harriet Scott Chessman’s _Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper_ is an ekphrastic tribute to the luminous potential of portraiture.

“Looking at the painting, I see a woman, clothed in pink and white, the white (my dress’s lace) making a brilliant cloud around her neck, and again at the opening of her sleeve, with a tumult of color (the hyacinths) around her head. I bend closer to the woman’s face, her chin half-hidden in the whiteness, her fo
Aug 19, 2012 Kristen rated it it was ok
What a fantastic follow up to "Luncheon of the Boating Party". In Luncheon Renior and Gustave were saddened by the way Degas and his followers (Cassatt) were taking the impressionist movement in a different direction. This book focused on May Cassatt and five paintings of her sister, Lydia. The third character was Degas, who was a mentor, friend and infuriating object of affection for the sisters. Discussion on Impressionism, paint strokes, light, etc. was interesting. But, this book was really ...more
Apr 16, 2009 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Art lovers, historical fiction lovers.
Recommended to Bridget by: A review when it was first published.
Shelves: 2009-reads
I remember reading a review of this book when it was first published a few years ago, and thinking that I really wanted to read it. Then I promptly forgot all about it. So when I was at the local branch of the public library trolling for titles and saw it, I happily grabbed it from the shelf.

A work of historical fiction, Chessman has created a small, intimate look at a three-year period in the life of artist Mary Cassatt (called “May” by her family) and her parents and older sister, Lydia. Durin
Bethany Andrews
Apr 14, 2009 Bethany Andrews rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I really hate it when I get excited over a book and then it bores me senseless. That's what this one did. Bummer.

Usually, when I write a book, I say something along the lines of "it was well written but.." and usually, what I mean by that is "I didn't really like it much, but I understand what the author was trying to do.." or something to that affect.

In the case of this book, I understand that the author was writing a fictional work about the Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt. Now, either
Aug 25, 2008 Iamshadow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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I am happy to announce the publication of my new novel, The Beauty of Ordinary Things, forthcoming from Atelier26, a wonderful new micropress in Portland, Oregon.

I am a fiction writer in the Bay Area, author of three earlier novels: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, Someone Not Really Her Mother, and Ohio Angels.

More about Harriet Scott Chessman...

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