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Sofie & Cecilia
Katherine Ashenburg
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Sofie & Cecilia

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  175 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Internationally bestselling nonfiction author Katherine Ashenburg’s debut novel SOFIE & CECILIA, set in the art world of Sweden in the late 19th/early 20th century, a story of life-long female friendship between two women married to famous artists inspired by Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn, revealing the pre-feminist pressures and secrets of marriage, career and family. ...more
Published (first published March 27th 2018)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  175 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Brooke — brooklynnnnereads
I feel as if this book is either going to be a hit or miss for readers. If you are a fan of literary fiction, this may be the read for you; however, for those that enjoy more of a contemporary or modern style of writing, this may be a boring read. As much as I can appreciate literary fiction, it's not my favourite genre so sometimes I can struggle when reading these style of novels.

For the first half of the novel, I have to say the story was fairly slow-paced. I could extend that pacing to the
Mel (Epic Reading)
This is a literary, fictionalized biography. As such it does not have a climax. It is even and true to life throughout. This makes it possibly boring for many people. However, if you understand that the author, Katherine Ashenburg, normally writes non-fiction then you can perhaps come around to the genius of this story.

The Story
As opposed to plot this is more of a character study. Ashenburg bases her main two women (and their husbands) on two women who actually existed. While the names, som/>The
Mary Johnson
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway-wins
"Why do people grow these cruel things?" she complained.
"For their beauty," Cecilia said.

This was such a wonderful book. It reminded me of Eva Stachniak's THE CHOSEN MAIDEN, which I also loved. Ashenburg expertly weaves a story of love, friendship, yearning, and art in early 20th century Sweden.

No, this is not a high speed plot. But the magic here is in the atmosphere. The first half of the novel is from Sofie's perspective, and everything from her Askebo house to her art projects were v
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an interesting surprising book! I quite enjoyed this story of two couples - the husband artists and the friendship between their supportive (sublimated) wives. Fascinating details about art, crafts, friendships, Sweden, etc. - very interesting.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 130 pages were a little difficult for me. It was a very slow paced start but the interesting tidbits kept me reading.

You will learn a lot about the art world and how the artist thinks regarding his/her work. Female artists were expected to give up their artistic ambitions when they married and focus on their family and children. They tended to pick up other interests such as knitting, sewing or embroidery. The reason for this becomes clear as you learn about Sofie and Nils,
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I met Katherine Ashenburg earlier this Spring at an author event. I had no idea what kind of book this was - even to hear her talk about it. It is a work of literary fiction.

the setting is Sweden in the late 19th century and into the 20th century. Ashenburg has researched 2 well known Swedish artists, Carl Larsson & Anders Zorn and the world of art and every bit of minutia that is part of art. She has weaved a work of fiction around these 2 men from the perspectives of their wive
Jane Mulkewich
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lovely read, about two women in the artistic community of Sweden last century, loosely based on real people and events. I read this because my sister bought it at a literary event and loaned it to me. I might not have otherwise read it, and I am glad I did. Although not a fast-paced plot, as the goodreads write-up says, it reveals "the pre-feminist pressures and secrets of marriage, career and family". These two women have a friendship which includes reading and discussing the novels of their ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters and learned much about the life of Swedish artists and their wives during the late 1900s and early 20th century. I plan to look up the works of the real painters who inspired the novel, although I'm glad that the story was about their wives and the women's friendship. The author portrayed the two women in nuanced ways that respected the historical time period.

Perhaps the main thing missing for me was some excitement. I also felt the author
Tashfin Awal
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways and have chosen to give my honest opinion about it.
Although this genre of novels is not usually my cup of tea, I think I really did enjoy the book. Although there were times where I felt it slowed down too much and missed the intensity that often follows many adventure, action, fantasy, thriller or even drama/contemporary books, I think that the ideas discussed and contrasted within this book were very intriguing and are what urged
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderfully written novel about the women behind the men, two Swedish artists. The story spans decades, detailing the women's lives as they interacted with each other and documenting their lives with their significant others. The women's relationship was highlighted by their love of reading, and their often conflicting views on the female characters in the novels that they shared with each other.
I loved this novel, however, it was quite slow reading. Although the pace was slow, i
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit
It's the sort of book you know whether you are going to like or not when you look at the cover. A fine Victorian/Edwardian (although it takes place in Sweden so I guess it should be considered Oscarian/Gustafian haha) novel of friendship between those who live in the shadows of their husbands. I love a good novel that is unashamedly "loosely based upon" historical events. I find these books to be the most fluid, entertaining, and void of historical stuffiness. Katherine Ashenburg does a fine job at this, ...more
As with other readers/reviewers, I have to agree, this "Sofie and Cecilia" is a little slow to start. Don't let that be a deterrent to reading this gorgeous book. Ashenburg has fictionalized the lives and wives of two famous Swedish artists working through the late 19th century into the early 20th century, looking not only at their art but also at the work in reviving Swedish folk customs. I found this absolutely intriguing. Aside from that it's a book about relationships: friendships and marria ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads-win
Goodreads Win Copy

This is a story of two Swedish females whose husband was painters. How they lead different lives but in reality were alike. Their journey along the way in finding themselves and the way they end up epressing their own artistic ways.

We are transported into their world and time in the twenties where war and women roles were beginning to change. Along the way their friendship changes as they grow closer. A moving novel of two strong women who deal with life
Deborah Rose
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, as it covered all my favourite things: information about another country, art, relationships, & history. I too consider myself a artist, and also coming late to full expression of my talent because I was involved with raising a family and working full time, I can relate to Sophie’s life. I also relate to the feeling that as a woman, our lives, our desires and expressions of ourselves as individuals often takes second seat to our husband’s life and the raising of children. ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was a little apprehensive about this book at the outset because of its somewhat stately pace. But I quickly adjusted and soon found myself enjoying the book thoroughly, particularly its understated sympathy and support for the two women of the title as they sought to square the circle of male oppression in long-ago Sweden. I was certainly impressed by the author's exhaustive research. So much detail might have overwhelmed a lesser novel, but it served only to enrich this one even further, and ...more
Sandra Martin
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sofie and Cecilia is a coming of age novel in the very best sense of the expression. The story is about two women, the wives of celebrated Swedish artists, who need to survive their marriages (both of which were satisfying and distressing) in order to become the women and the artists (of the brush and the pen) they were meant to be. That is an encouraging and rich theme. And speaking of rich, the novel rewards the reader with the pleasures we (or at least I) normally associate with biography and ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a goodreads win. I did enjoy this novel but it did take me awhile to get into the story. By the halfway point I was really enjoying learning about the characters and the story was enjoyable. I think I will pass this one onto my Mom as she is an avid reader and I will see if she enjoys it. She seems to enjoy books that I have a bit of a hard time to get into, so I will see what her opinion is.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting story of the art world in early 20th century told through the lens of two famous Swedish artist's wives. The women had different backgrounds and life experience but as friends they were able to see both sides. It is a fictionalized story of how the Sweden and the rest of the western world evolved through WW1 and to the mid 30's with the rise of fascism and antisemitism. The topic is relevant today with Nationalism on the rise.
Jovana Đermanović
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5/5 What a beautifully written book from beginning to end. It is so captivating and elegant, and not like any other book I've encountered before. Although the end is quite sad, I can't stress enough how beautifully written this book is, and how much I enjoyed getting to know the characters, all of which are expertly constructed. I also found myself thinking about particular elements of this book, days after I had finished reading it - that's how powerful it is! Highly, highly recommended!
Cheryl Schenk
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed the his book. The setting, the characters, and the art world of the early 1900’s.
The friendship between these woman as it grew and changed was wonderful and frustrating at times, but times were so different then and we need to be reminded of that. It opened my eyes to a world I was mostly unfamiliar with, yet am now enamoured with.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A tender story of two women, their friendship their husbands, lovers , families and a lifelong involvement with art . It is a thoughtful meditation on female friendship, love, marriage, children and art.
Set in Sweden during the early part of the 20th century the story is rich in detail about Swedish life.
Donna Wellard
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a lovely, subtle beauty of a novel! Set in the early 20th century it's about the friendship between the wives of two Swedish painters loosely based on Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn. Filled with lots of things I love such as art, landscape, female friendships and book reviews, I truly enjoyed spending time with these two quietly extraordinary women.
This book is loosely based on the lives of Swedish artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn (although under different names) and their lesser known buy very interesting wives. Set against the early twentieth century art world in Sweden the era is vividly recreated.
A thoroughly enjoyable, multi-layered historical novel set at the beginning of the modern Scandinavian design movement, based on actual characters and events. Touches on many fascinating issues, all against the backdrop of a tumultuous time period in Europe.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fictionalized account of the wives of two Swedish painters early in the 1900s. What they had to put up with (affairs, lack of recognition) but also of their interests (books, art, Swedish folk art/crafts).
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I won this book as part of a goodreads giveaway. I have been trying to finish this book for sometime. Although parts of it are interesting, it read too much like a nonfiction and I was unable to finish it.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway
Might not be the book for everyone, a lot of info about art, artists, 19th century writers and their literary works. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. A little slow to start but I am happy I stuck with it.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read. Interesting all the way through. Two distinct main characters, very human and very believable.
Colette Connors
I loved it! A long,winding road of friendship.
Angelina Rose
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, loved the details and the characters. However, plot wise it was a bit slow...
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Katherine Ashenburg is the prize-winning author of three non-fiction books and hundreds of articles on subjects that range from travel to mourning customs to architecture. She describes herself as a lapsed Dickensian and as someone who has had a different career every decade. Her work life began with a Ph.D. dissertation about Dickens and Christmas, but she quickly left the academic world for succ ...more