Irene's Reviews > Luncheon of the Boating Party

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

liked it

This was a generally good book. The writing was solid, the premise was fun, the characters were full of potential. But, somehow, the book never drew me in. The novel is set among the artistic community of Paris, in the summer of 1880 as Renoir is creating his famous painting “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. The story begins with what is historically known about the models and other people connected with this masterpiece and fictionalizes the unknown details. What might each of these people have brought to the creative process and how might it have impacted them? Unfortunately, with 14 models and numerous additional characters, we could not spend enough time with any single person to feel any connection. Because the entire book is confined to 8 weeks, no one undergoes any significant transformation or resolves any internal tension. I suspect that the painting may have been the main character; the struggle to finish it under the constraints of time, money and artistic doubts was the primary tension. But, each of these seem to be nearly miraculously resolved, merchants waving bills, models making their way into the painting even though they missed most of the sittings and dabs of paint to mark place and scraping away of problems, metamorphosizing into a masterpiece on the final day. I am not sure that I would have finished this in a week had it not been a borrowed book that needed to be returned. All week, I would have to force myself to resist the temptation to read something else. But, I did enjoy the glimpse into the bohemian world of 19th century Paris.

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