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I Always Loved You

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  3,801 Ratings  ·  448 Reviews
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 h
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Viking (first published January 1st 2014)
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Beth It was very good. I kept looking up the paintings online to see which ones they were talking about. This was very different than anything I have read…moreIt was very good. I kept looking up the paintings online to see which ones they were talking about. This was very different than anything I have read before so it was nice to have a change.(less)

Community Reviews

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Katherine Gypson
Jul 05, 2013 Katherine Gypson rated it it was amazing
It's a testament to the power of this story and the conviction of Robin Oliveira's writing that I'm able to look back and review this book almost six months after reading it. Oliveira's first novel - My Name is Mary Sutter - is on my list of all-time favorite historical novels so when I saw that her follow-up book looked at one of my favorite times and places in history (the Belle Epoque Paris of the Impressionists), I was beyond excited.

I've been disappointed by a lot of historical novels late
I Always Loved You transports us to La Belle Epoque when the American artist Mary Cassatt was painting in Paris. While the story also involves the other Impressionists, it centers on the interactions between Cassatt and her mentor, Edgar Degas. Although Degas helped her realize her potential as an artist, he could also be thoughtless and stubborn, so their relationship was very complicated and stormy. Cassatt burned their letters before she died so this story is an imaginative look at their rela ...more
Susan Vreeland
Feb 05, 2014 Susan Vreeland rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susan by: the editor of the book
What a joy it is to be back in Belle Epoque Paris with my old artist friends, guided by the masterful pen of Robin Oliveira whose finely crafted language brings to light the complicated relationships of four of the principals of the Impressionist movement--Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot and Eduard Manet, two tortured love affairs. Only an omniscient narrator has the latitude to disclose the private yearnings and fears of these four as they grapple with issues of art execution, scat ...more
Jennifer King
Sep 13, 2013 Jennifer King rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
While I understand some of the very harsh reviews here on Goodreads so far, I believe that these reviewers have missed the heart of the book they are reviewing. Yes, I ALWAYS LOVED YOU begins slowly and the story develops quietly, but the novel as a whole is more like an Impressionist painting, which begins as a blurry image and subtly, through many layers, becomes something significant, beautiful, resonant. At least, that is my experience with reading I ALWAYS LOVED YOU by Robin Oliveira.

The re

She would adore her child and tend her husband, but love, that elusive prize, had left her now. What a horror it was to be mortal, she thought, subject to such appalling weaknesses and needs. What a horror it was to be alive.

These are the reviews that are the hardest to write. If I had felt strongly about this book - on either end of the spectrum - I would have no problem putting my thoughts down. As it were, however, I Always Loved You was a novel that mo
Dec 14, 2013 Claudia rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
After reading the author's first book, "My Name is Mary Sutter", which I loved, I was looking forward to her next book. I love novels about the art world, and I am especially interested in the period covered in this book. The new era of the impressionists, their breaking away from the established art critics of the Salon, and especially their relationship with each other is fascinating. If you are interested in artists circles like the circles around Dorothy Parker, or around F. Scott Fitzgerald ...more
Dec 29, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a copy of this through Goodreads First Reads.

I Always Loved You is (in a simplified nutshell), a fictional account of the relationship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, artists who were a part of the Impressionist movement in Paris.

I was initially interested in this book because I have a fine arts background. I'm familiar with the Impressionists and their work, but by name and reputation only. I was curious to see what Robin Oliveira would do with the story, how the characters would gr
Rebecca Foster
The complicated relationship between Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt (long my favorite painter) forms the basis for this well-researched novel’s vivid illumination of Impressionist-era Paris.

The main section spans the years 1877-1883, beginning with Mary as a 33-year-old trainee painter in Paris. She impresses many of the city’s up-and-coming artists, including Degas, and earns an invitation to her first Parisian soirée. The author brilliantly recreates the opinionated banter of this group of intel
Feb 16, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing
This book was such a wonderful surprise! Not having read anything by Oliveira before, I had no idea what I was going to get with this story. Historical fiction books that feature art and artists always appeal to me and this easily has become a favorite. I loved the late 19th century Paris setting and being in and among the Impressionist artists of the time. It was fun having a window into what their world may have been like. I especially loved watching the relationships between them all, especia ...more
Nicole Rhaven
Jan 25, 2014 Nicole Rhaven rated it really liked it
I got this book via First Reads for my honest review.

I Always Loved You is based off of the perplexing relationship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

Robin Oliveira grabs real life people and turns them into a fictionalized whirl-wind story; she has an incredible way with words as it is extremely well written.
She takes you back to 19th century Paris, where things were much different, to where artists thrived and struggled.
Mary Cassatt is suggested that she was a great painter, but we ne
Jan 19, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
This is a somewhat tedious read trying to sort characters and relations. Overall a good read but it does take time to establish where the story is going. I was not satisfied with ending just because I like happy endings and this one doesn't make you feel good by the time you finish. If you haven't read Oliveira's My Name is Mary Sutter I suggest reading that one over I Always Loved You because it is fabulous! Like I said I liked this book overall but there are some challenges with the names and ...more
Holly Weiss
Feb 01, 2014 Holly Weiss rated it liked it
Up front, I'd like to say that I adored Robin Oliveira's debut novel, My Name is Mary Sutter.

I Always Loved You didn't quite pack the same punch. Aspects of this book are brilliant. Meticulously researched, it is a fountain of information about Impressionistic artists of the Belle Epoque era in Paris.

Mary Cassatt, American painter of women and children’s scenes travels to Paris. She meets Edgar Degas, known for capturing motion on canvas and depicting dancers. We know from the outset they have e
Jan 23, 2014 Patricia rated it it was ok
While I like Robin Oliveira's writing, and appreciate the amount of research that went into creating I Always Loved You, I abandoned this read 1/3 of the way through because I lost interest in the subject. Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas had a long relationship during Paris' Belle Epoque. She was talented and driven, but, as an American woman, given short shrift by the Parisian art establishment. He was one of the premier artists of the era, and took an interest in her. We all know their basic stor ...more
Laura K. Warrell
Jan 27, 2014 Laura K. Warrell rated it it was amazing
In a literary culture where explorations of romance are often relegated to lightweight, Hollywood–ready love stories with contrived happy endings, Robin Oliveira distinguishes herself. Her latest novel, I Always Loved You, is romantic in the truest, most intellectually compelling sense of the word. The narrative travels elegantly across the topography of love while simultaneously exploring the agony and exultation of the human experience as it manifests in life and art. The relationship between ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and full of period details, this novel features American artist Mary Cassatt and her complex relationship with the talented, sometimes infuriating Edgar Degas, but the viewpoint also switches to Berthe Morisot and her brother-in-law/maybe-lover Edouard Manet, creating a broad intimate portrait of Belle Epoque Paris and the loves, doubts, struggles, triumphs, yearnings, fears, and ambitions of four painters hoping to change the direction of art. I’ve read several books on the ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Phyllis rated it really liked it
Mary Cassatt moves to Paris in the late nineteenth century to find her place in the art world. It is the story of the impressionists. Edgar Degas, Eduoard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Monet and many others. It is about their accomplishments and frustrations and it is also about love. The author did an excellent job with her insights into the heart and soul of the artist. Beautiful written
Casee Marie
Jan 27, 2014 Casee Marie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, favorites, 2014
In her new novel, I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira takes the reader to Paris in the Belle Époque and tells the story of the tumultuous relationships between the radical impressionists, centering on Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. She’s a sensible American with an untapped talent; he’s the master she’s always admired, whose work is more than paint. When Degas, uncharacteristically bewitched, begs an introduction, their lives are catapulted into a swell of emotional upheaval, of joy and loss and t ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Kaitlin rated it really liked it
I Always Loved You: A Novel (click book for description and product page)
By Robin Oliveira
Publication Date: 02/04/14
Provided free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 4 bones

Finish time: 9 nights. After my last book (here), I was hoping for a bit of an easier read, but somehow I ended up on this one that took me almost as long. And centered around art again too. Hmmm. Not a bad thing, just kind of funny. I had a love, hate relationship with this book, but after thinking abou
Jan 03, 2014 Kristine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Original review found at
* I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Viking via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*

Historical fiction has always been one of my favourite genres so I was extremely happy to have been granted access to this book in advance of the publication date. I could not wait to dive into the story. There is no doubt that Oliveira is an amazing writer as she so eloquently describes Paris and the art world of that er
Jan 20, 2014 Betty rated it really liked it
This is the story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas during a time of great changes in the art world of Paris. Mary had moved to Paris from America to pursue a career as an artist to learn for the locals. It was there that she met Edgar who offered to help her show her work. They seemed to have an a rather unusual relationship but fairly understandable for the time period. It is pretty obvious that they loved each other. However, they never seemed to be able to give each other what was needed.
Mary Jo Malo
Mar 26, 2015 Mary Jo Malo rated it it was amazing
Oh the the furies and frustrations of requited and unrequited love in the lives of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, and Berthe Morisot and Edouard Manet. This plausible and authentic portrait encapsulates the conflict between art as a professional obsession and the personal lives of the characters, as well as between their creative insecurity, self-assurance, and their need for acclaim. Oliveira's attention to detail creates a believable and engaging palette for engaging with the Impressionists' wo ...more
Ann Woodbury Moore
Jan 31, 2017 Ann Woodbury Moore rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this historical novel of artists Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas far more than I expected. Oliveira eloquently writes of Paris in the 1870s and 1880s; the impressionist movement; family disappointments and expectations; and the creation of art itself, an extremely difficult skill. She also, as the title suggests, delves into the personal interactions of the American Cassatt, eager to please and (at first) lacking in self-confidence, and the brusque, alternately gentle and rude French Dega ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Jan rated it liked it
The most impressive aspect of “I Always Loved You” is its absolutely stunning detail, an assurance of prodigious research by author Robin Oliveira, whose novel has been called “a love letter to Impressionism.” I would hazard a guess that Oliveira must be an art aficionado in order to describe so exquisitely and intensely the ectasies and agonies of artists. I have found no reference to such, but if this novel is strictly the production of her research, my awe is great indeed.

American expatriate
Deborah Pickstone
Surprisingly good. Surprisingly because I have read a number of biographical novels about artists and most of them seem to miss the point or are just not well written. In fact I can only think of 2 that I liked - The Woman in the Photograph and The Agony and the Ecstasy.

Again, it is about two artists I admire - Mary Cassat and Edgar Degas. He was, of course, outstanding. She is, perhaps, more recognised now? Every time I read something like this I am amazed that any woman ever managed to 'be' an
Apr 02, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
I love this book as it combines two of my loves: Impressionism art and a wonderful love story. Robin Oliveira recreates the world of Belle Epoque Paris. Mary Cassatt had moved to Paris after the Civil War intent on being an artist, but after a decade of work and her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary determination wavers. Her father begs her to return to Philadelphia and find a husband and be with her sister Lydia who has fallen ill. Then one afternoon a friend introduces her to Edg ...more
Maureen M
Aug 29, 2014 Maureen M rated it really liked it
I wrote this review for the newspaper:
Whatever the truth was between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, we’ll never know. Their letters went up in flames long ago, leaving only a century of speculation.
Robin Oliveira fills the void with an imaginative yet faithful story of what might have been.
The two artists/friends/collaborators (and lovers?) were stars of the Impressionist movement in Belle Epoque Paris. In real life, their friends and families wondered what went on between them in their studios.
Sue Wargo
Apr 06, 2014 Sue Wargo rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating look at The artists of the Impressionist artistic movement. The story is told largely by American Mary Cassatt who comes to Paris after the Civil War. She works years to submit her work to the Salon only to be rejected. Her life is intertwined with Manet, Degas and many other of the artists of the day. She develops a sort of love dislike relationship with Degas wishing for more but not sacrificing for less. What strikes me most about this book is that this is more about a t ...more
Jan 22, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this historical novel about Mary Cassatt (and Degas, Morisot, Manet), and it did have some great strengths, so I apologize to the author for not giving it a higher rating. I am not the best audience for such a work, as I find myself choosing to read more and more nonfiction these days. So, instead of being properly grateful to the author for bringing the milieu of the impressionists to life so vividly, I end up wondering which bits are true and which made up. Also, while much of ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
A multilayered and multifaceted story analogous to the way light reflects/refracts off a painting creating different emotions, I found myself absorbed in the contentious, avande-garde times of 19th century Paris. It hasn't been all that long ago that these social mores Robin Oliveira wrote about constrained relationships between men and women. Mary Cassatt's angst over her passion for Art or the more traditional role for women of wife and mother still resonates today. I felt Robin Oliveira did a ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this novel. I have Robin Oliviera's first book "My Name is Mary Sutter" as one of my staff picks at the library I work at, so I obviously like her writing style. This book was quite different. I have never travelled to Paris, so found myself a little overwhelmed with her referrals to places I haven't experienced first hand. I also don't have a good working knowledge of the Impressionist artists she depicts in the novel. I found myself searching the Int ...more
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Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She is also a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. She received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the fiction editor for the literary magazine upstreet and a former assis ...more
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“And even if something had once been committed to paper, did it mean that it was still true? Always true? Unlike the relative permanence of paint, words were temporal. You uttered them and they evanesced, but if you wrote them, they remained, though whether the written word was any more truthful than the spoken was a mystery to her. Only paint was honest.” 9 likes
“If you are going to abandon your work because someone speaks ill of it, then it has never been your work, has it? It becomes theirs. You give it up.” 1 likes
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