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In 1863, Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art: Manet's Olympia and Picnic on the Grass. However, Victorine's persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself.

In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty.

Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy. Drēma Drudge's powerful first novel, Victorine, not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.

362 pages, Paperback

Published March 17, 2020

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Drema Drudge

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for Christa Sigman.
486 reviews
February 23, 2020
I have been privileged to read an advanced copy of this novel. I love historical fiction about real people. I love it even more when it involves the arts. Victorine is about one of Manet's (and other artists') muses. However she also was a successful artist after a period of time in her own right. This book encompasses women's issues, class differences, the ideologies of art, and the struggles of love all without losing the delicacy of excellent story telling. I hate to read on an electronic device, so the fact that I could not put this down even though all I had was a .pdf copy is a testament to the complete readability and absorption into the story this book provides. I can't wait to get a real copy (i.e. hardback book). I want to read it again after I have taken time to view in depth the works of art described. BRAVO BRAVO!
Profile Image for Helen Hollick.
Author 43 books505 followers
July 15, 2020
We’ve all seen her on the covers of lush and shiny Impressionists coffee table books. Naked—sitting on the grass with two clothed men in Le déjeuner sur l’herbe and reclined on a chaise in Olympia—or clothed as a matador, or a street musician, or a demur mother with her daughter by the Gare Saint-Lazare. But precious few of us know anything of Victorine Meurent, Manet’s favorite model. Drēma Drudge sets out to change all that and succeeds in grand fashion.

This might seem a variation of a coming-of-age story, had not a young Victorine sprung, Athena-like, fully formed from the fertile and thoroughly well-informed mind of Ms. Drudge. We meet Victorine early in the book as a sexually-open teenager, casually dumping her first lover for a magnetically violent bare-knuckle boxer. She had posed nude for her printmaker father, a frustrated painter himself, so manifests little concern for the nude poses demanded by Manet after he encounters her in her father’s shop. She is, quite simply, a thoroughly modern woman, of a kind just emerging from the social and artistic ferment of Third Republic Paris. Victorine is exceptionally self-aware, particularly of her ambiguous place as both artistic collaborator and a tool to exploit and shock the male gaze. Her fluid sexuality is of a piece with this broader self-awareness—sometimes emotionally fulfilling, always physically pleasurable, and occasionally transactional.

But Victorine Meurent was not just the striking, fair-skinned redhead who anonymously entered our cultural canon through her remarkable collaborations with Édouard Manet. She became a respected painter in her own right, displaying six of her works during the great salons of the late 19th century and right up to the First World War. Throughout Victorine, she is singularly goal-driven. Tired of posing for and stroking the egos of men who could or would be great artists, she seeks a way to attend art school herself with a most intense focus.

She encounters some role models—other women artists—whom she alternately loves or loathes. Against great financial odds and despite endless patriarchal and misogynistic barriers, she is finally accepted into the Parisian community of artists as a more or less coequal member.

This book is a work of literary fiction about a real person set in an historic era, rather than historical genre fiction. The story is narrated by Victorine herself in first-person present—which is a bit jarring to start. And as most authors know, first-person narration is a delicate high-wire act that requires significant craft to pull off successfully. What first-person gives in intimacy and vividness, it often takes away in limitation on point-of-view and limitation of setting. Ms. Drudge negotiates this challenge beginning-to-end with a combination of adroit plot structuring and a writing style that flashes and gleams like an Impressionist’s palette. The author’s shining prose pulled me inexorably through the few weaknesses in this work, such as a slightly flabby middle and a somewhat rigid insistence on threading the story through a few too many notable paintings. But with Victorine’s provocative and evocative voice shining through Ms. Drudge’s crystalline prose, these faults recede into pettiness.

I highly recommend Victorine for both those looking for literary fiction in historical settings as well as fans of stories from Paris in the Belle Époque.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
Profile Image for Carla Sue.
6 reviews
March 12, 2020
Drema captured the spirit of Victorine in this beautifully captivating novel. I am not typically a fan of art or historical fiction, but from the first page, I was drawn into this story. Each page is filled with hope, longing, courage, and despair as Victorine learns about herself, her passions, and about love - love of herself, of others, and greatest of all, of art. Victorine is bold and remarkable. This novel is a masterpiece of it's own accord, as well. The words on each page flow like paints on a canvas, putting forth images that build the story. Amazing novel. Would strongly recommend!
Profile Image for Mercedes Rochelle.
Author 13 books136 followers
April 1, 2020
I am a great fan of Manet, so I was especially interested in the story of his famous model for Olympia, the woman who looks at the viewer with such a disturbing direct gaze. Drema Drudge’s Victorine is—as might well be expected—disturbing in her own right. She is an original. No doubt about it. She leads a Bohemian lifestyle at a time when French painters were expressing their individualism in ways that conflicted with the mainstream, led by the talented Manet. He recognizes her charisma and invites her to be his model—a métier she finds herself well suited for. However, she may be more than he bargained for. Victorine feels that she is much more than a mere object; she feels that as a model, her contribution to the painting is critical. She helps determine what the viewer is supposed to feel; whether Manet likes it or not, she voices her opinion and criticizes without hesitation. At the same time, she is energized by his presence, and throughout his life she is obsessed with him, regardless of his own response to her (or lack thereof). During one of their interminable disagreements:

“I have violated his very soul, have taken credit (fairly so, I must believe) for what he feels is the fruit of his mind. It is only partly so. A man does not like to think he has not created everything himself, I am sure. I have ruined what would have been his finest painting to date; he will not finish it without me.

Worse, maybe he will finish it, painting over my head, erasing me as surely as my parents have done. As my mind calms, anger replaces sorrow. How can he not see what I have brought to the paintings? Why am I to have no credit? I’m well shed of him.”

Early on, Manet persuades her to model for him nude, and she is still young and inexperienced when she agrees. Alas, Olympia is way ahead of its time and the public is scandalized. Poor Victorine is the devastated target of their spite; they call her a whore, shun her, ostracize her, while Manet chooses this moment to absent himself from Paris, leaving Victorine to face his critics alone. I think this is when she understands that she is not as important to Manet as he is to her, compounded by the fact that he brings in other models, much to her chagrin. She begins to realize that the only way she will prove her own worth is as an artist, herself. This is a long-term goal and much has to happen before she takes that step.

This is not the kind of book you want to read for excitement and adventure. The pace is even, steady, sometimes slow. Victorine is a complicated character, and you must read on her terms. She toys with you, the reader, just like she toys with Manet and indeed, with herself. Her story is full of non-sequiturs and free associations. I don’t think she is ever happy. But I will say that I can never look at a Manet picture the same way again. Victorine has become a part of him, and this compelling story enriches his portraits of her and makes me look closer than ever before. I would give this book 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Juliet Bookliterati.
419 reviews6 followers
August 5, 2020
Victorine by Drēma Drudge is a fictional account of the life of Victorine Meurant. The name may not sound familiar to you, but you will have seen her face in some of the most famous paintings, especially Le Déjeuner sur l’ Herbe, and Olympia. In this book, Drēma Drudge brings Victorine to life, from being a muse to Manet and Alfred Stevens, to finally being recognised as an artisit in her own right.

I first came across Victorine when studying for my Art History Degree, when looking at women in art and how they faded into the background of the patriarchal establishment (lets face it we can all name many male artisits, but how many female could you name?). So when Drēma Drudge got in contact about her book on Victorine I jumped at the chance to read it, and learn more about this wonderful woman. This is a fictional account, but it is obvious to me how much research Drēma has done, the historical detail, her knowledge of the art world and her understanding of Victorine really shines through and makes this such a remarkable book.

What really stands out for me in this book is how Drēma Drudge captures the spirit of Victorine, and by having Victorine as the narrator makes it more personal. In a way she was a trailblazer, a woman ahead of her time in that she was independent, earnt her own money, was aware and comfortable of her body, and her sexuality and realised the power it held. But, she wasn’t satisfied with just being a model for some of the most famous artists of the time, she wanted to be an artist herself and saved her money so she could go to art school. Drēma’s fictionalised portrayal of Victorina modelling for Manet and Stevens makes the reader a voyeur to the sanctity of the artisits studio, that special moment of artist at work, creating some of the most famous art in the world.

Away from the artist studio Drēma Drudge anchors Victorine’s story in the cultural and social history of Paris in the late nineteenth century. This was a time of café culture where Victorine mixed with many of the great artists and literary names of the day, including Zola, Dégas and Monet, drinking wine and the famous absinthe. This soon came to a stop when the Franco Prussan War finally came to Paris, and Drēma writes of poverty and death, where the reseidents were eating rats to survive, a dark contrast to the rest of the book, bringing in the reality of life. The social history sees a patriarchal and class society, and not just in the art world. Even when she did get to art school the other female students had rich parents to pay for their tuition, whereas Victorine had to work to earn her money. Drēma does include other female artists of the period Beth Morisot and Eva Gonzales, but both had their art constrained by their marriages, whereas Victorine wanted to push the boundaries, and she did.

Victorine is an impressive and compelling read about a woman who was a feminist ahead of her time. Drēma Drudge’s lyrical prose and attention to detail make this book such a joy to read, pulling the reader into the book and nineteenth century Paris. Victorine’s story from model to artist is fascinating, and in this fictional account she is brought to life like her own self portrait; by the end of the book I felt I knew her intimately. Ths is a story of art, its lasting legacy, and the sexism and prejudice around it, which Victorine challenged. I simply loved this book, the writng, the art and the history, and highly recommend it, even if art is not your thing as it has so many themes that resonate today.
Profile Image for Barred Owl Books.
397 reviews5 followers
May 24, 2020
In 1863 Civil War is raging in the United States Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art: Manet's Olympia and Picnic on the Grass. However, Victorine's persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy. Drema Drudge's powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.
Profile Image for Drema.
Author 4 books44 followers
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February 11, 2020

March 17, 2020 from Fleur-de-Lis Press

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Manet watches me pose for Stevens. I am, as always in Stevens’s paintings, looking wistfully beyond my beautifully appointed surroundings toward something unattainable or unknown. Longing, that’s what he paints better than anyone. I suppose men respond to it so well because they imagine they can fulfill that longing, or even that it suggests that perhaps women want more than just the trappings (literally) of a good life. Women respond to the “pretty” yet sad paintings because they so often feel the yearning that those women feel.

I would not want a life without longing. It would suggest that there was nothing more to want. There will always be something to want, something to create. There must be. And yet something about the way Stevens paints the longing of these women makes their wishes seem trivial, the product of a too-pampered life. It trivializes their feelings, and that angers me. Perhaps it angers me too that their dreams are not those of us who must literally sing for our supper.

No, I’m being unfair. I saw the misery on the faces of the well-heeled patrons in the department store in which I worked. It gnaws at me, then, the fear that nothing, no nothing, can stop the holes. Except art. I breathe, deeply.

Profile Image for Mary Yarde.
Author 6 books135 followers
March 24, 2020

"Is there no way to stop the decay, the inevitable death of all but art? Good, solid, great art. I want to create it because I want to live forever."

She was born into a family of artisans and had a secret ambition to become an artist. He was rich, but had rejected the future initially envisaged for him and instead immersed himself in the world of art. But on one auspicious day, Victorine Meurent and Édouard Manet crossed paths. What was to follow would seemingly mock the tradition of the Royal Academy and shock and scandalise the Parisian public.

But what Victorine had not expected was that she would be forever cast in the role of a courtesan or a demi-mondaine, while Manet would later be referred to as the Father of Impressionism.

From a young girl's dreams and ambitions to the heart-breaking funeral of a friend who was taken far too soon, Victorine by Drēma Drudge is the riveting, at times shocking, story of Victorine Meurent — artist, model, musician, lover, and friend.

With a daring but bold stroke of the brush, Drudge has penned an evocative and utterly enthralling story about an artist that history has, for some reason, overlooked. Lovers of Manet's work will instantly recognise Victorine Meurent's face however, as she mockingly stares at them from The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia. Still, her art which was hung in the Académie des Beaux-Arts and The Salon is all but forgotten. Drudge sheds new light onto the artist that took of her clothes and scandalised a nation.

Written with a keen sense of time and place, Drudge has given her readers a book which is as rich in historical detail as it is in historical controversy. We meet the child Victorine, who is abused by her father — an abuse that is ignored by her mother. We watch as she grows up and begins to explore her sexuality. She is assertive, at times immoral, but always determined to do her own things in her own way. Victorine's ambition to become an artist is thwarted only by her situation and her sex. And while the notion of being a penniless artist is considered, for some reason, romantic, the realities left little time for romance. Coming from an artisan family, Victorine did not have the luxury of falling back on her family’s wealth to support her — for most of this story, it is Victorine who is supporting her ageing parents. Drudge clearly demonstrates the lack of opportunity for women, such as Victorine. This was an era where an independent woman was in itself a scandalous notion. However, that does not explain why Victorine Meurent's art has not stood the test of time the way Berthe Morisot's has. Perhaps the reason is simply that Victorine's life was too vulgar for the era that she lived in. She may have moved in the same circles as the Impressionists, but her behaviour sets her somewhat apart from them as well.

Drudge portrays Victorine as a woman who is comfortable in her sexuality, so at times this book is verging on explicit. Victorine is promiscuous and has many lovers, and she is also not opposed to violence in her relationships, which, for some, may make for difficult reading. Drudge also gives us a woman who is prepared, from quite a young age, to take off her clothes to model in the nude, not necessarily because of her need for money but because she seemingly enjoys it, or more likely because when she was naked it was the only time her father seemed to notice her. Drudge has, however, given her readers a stubborn woman, whose single-minded determination drives this story forward.

In this story, Manet's wealth and position in society doesn't intimidate Victorine in the slightest. She treats him like an equal, and they spend many hours talking about art, and she learns a great deal from him, but she also learns how to play the game — how to produce art that The Salon will accept, and in fact, history tells us that in 1876 Victorine's self-portrait was displayed in The Salon whereas Manet's work was not accepted. Victorine did not have the luxury of being a man in a man's world, but her shameful behaviour also did her no favours, and this Drudge depicts beautifully. I thought Drudge's depiction of Victorine was fabulous.

The historical detailing of this book has to be commended. Drudge has obviously spent many long hours researching not only the life of Victorine Meurent and Édouard Manet but also the era in which this book is set in. The Siege of Paris (1870-1871) was particularly well-drawn and incredibly realistic as was Victorine's relationship with the Belgian painter, Alfred Stevens. This attention to detail, this attentiveness to the documented history of this time gave this book a tremendous sense of authenticity.

Victorine by Drema Drudge is a fascinating insight into the life of Victorine Meurent. It is an absolute treat for anyone who loves to read quality Historical Fiction.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Profile Image for Paula Butterfield.
Author 1 book12 followers
April 2, 2020

Victorine Meurent is born in Paris, a city that was itself a work of art. Haussmann is pushing out the poor to create broad avenues and elegant sandstone apartment buildings. The new department stores provide the clothing, cosmetics, and jewelry that allow—or oblige—every woman to look beautiful. How could Victorine have grown up without an eye for beauty?
Her parents are almost-artists, a milliner and a lithographer who prints posters that paper the city. They discourage their daughter’s pursuit of art, which requires expensive art school training and supplies. But Victorine won’t settle for painting china or making hats.

Tiny sips of beauty ruin the deeper thirst for art, [she says.] Pretty
cups and cheerful hats are made to mollify women.

Instead, Victorine turns to modeling, first for art classes, then for Edouard Manet. During her years of modeling for Manet, she absorbs his painting techniques and, in turn, challenges his perceptions of women. The pair grow to understand and admire one another as a result of their collaboration.
But when Victorine models for the scandalous paintings Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, she finds herself vilified. Paris turns on her. Only when she begins to model for Alfred Stevens, a most un-scandalous artist who makes her the subject of his pretty paintings, is her reputation repaired.
Throughout, Victorine insists on her selfhood. She lives a reckless life and answers to no one. She will be who she is, no matter what the price. And most of all, what she wants to be is an artist, to “capture something of now for later.”
After years of modeling, Victorine has enough money to pay for art school, where she excels. Later, she’s able to support herself through portraiture. It is her self-portrait that is accepted by the prestigious salon held by the Academy des Beaux Arts. With it, Victorine feels that the student has surpassed the master; she thinks it is superior to many of Manet’s works. She will leave a legacy.
Drudge writes the novel from a deep first-person point of view, in present tense. The reader is in Victorine’s head, privy to her opinions, insights, and delicious descriptions of Manet’s and Stevens’ paintings, following her moment by moment through both process and result.
For me, someone familiar with the women artists of the time (my novel, La Luministe, is about Impressionist Berthe Morisot), a special delight in this novel is the author’s imagining of Victorine’s friendship with Eva Gonzalès, a student of Manet’s who exhibited with the Impressionists. It’s intriguing to think of how these women might have interacted.
If you want to read about a renegade heroine, a fresh point of view about the Parisian art world, a book about beauty, beautifully written, read Drēma Drudge's remarkable debut novel, Victorine.
Profile Image for Cynthia Austin.
Author 8 books298 followers
March 20, 2020
Drudge’s novel, provides an intimate look into the life of French model Victorine Meurent, a Parisian artist born in a time where women artists were not taken seriously. The only way to express her love of art was to pose for male painters.

A muse to Edourd Monet, the book gives the backstory to each of his paintings. A lifelong relationship is formed between the two and although it is clear Manet loved Victorine, maybe even respected her, he continued to remind her of her inferiority and never quite allowed her to reach his level of class, friends or other artists. Throughout the entire book, Victorine surrounded herself around selfish artists, and gave everything but her blood to be included in that circle. All she wanted was for the men to acknowledge that she was not just a model, but a painter, like them. But even when her work was accepted into the Salon, a place that rejected Manet’s work several times, he still could not give her the praise she deserved.

Drudge blends Paris culture, Art, music, fashion and sexuality into a very colorful life of Victorine Meurent. Had she been born a man, we probably wouldn't remember her, but a woman screaming so loud to be both seen and heard, she's left quite an impression in history.

As I read the story, I kept thinking how one dimensional the characters are. One minute they're talking, the next someone's crying, then everyone's laughing again. The relationships are never fleshed out, just suddenly people are having sex then everyone's married…or maybe they were married but still having sex with everyone else…it happens so quickly, it’s tough to keep up, but eventually, I learned the rhythm of the authors writing style, and even grew to appreciate what she was doing here. Where personal details and emotions are lacking, the description of paintings are exuberant. I think the author did this on purpose. Victorine constantly dwells on the fact that she can feel nothing for anyone or anything but art. The writing style supports that. Her marriage is brushed over because it's secondary to her. The days spent as Monet's muse are plentiful because that's what matters to her. A very well written, unique take on the art history of Paris.
Profile Image for Karen Wills.
Author 4 books22 followers
June 8, 2021
Review of Victorine by Drema Drudge: Portrait of a Complex Subject

Victorine Meurent, as depicted by author Drema Drudge was more than just Manet’s favorite model. She was a woman who felt compelled to be immersed in the highest forms of art, Victorine, the daughter of a lithographer father who exploited her as his nude model when she was a little girl, and a withdrawn hat maker mother, dreamed of attending art school, despite the limitations of her circumstances as a poor woman in 1860s Paris. It took her awhile, but she realized that hard won goal.

Noticed by the painter Manet, she became his subject for two paintings in particular that brought her to the status of a rock star, both condemned and copied, in that world that had bohemian Paris as its center. Those paintings were “Olympia” and “Picnic on the Grass.” In the former she is a shameless prostitute and in the latter, a shameless model.

Victorine is not well educated, but she is smart. She knows what she wants and it isn’t domesticity. “Is there no way to stop the decay the inevitable death of all but art? Good, solid, great art. I want to create it because I want to live forever. Me, not a child of mine who carries only the color of my eyes but not how my eyes see.” If models remind us of butterflies, she was a butterfly with a sharp eye for critiquing and questioning Manet’s and other artists’ paintings of her. She watched and questioned. They learned from each other. Drudge brings the grimy, impoverished, but exhilerating life to the reader through Victorine’s senses. The model becomes an artist herself with a glorious passion for color, texture, new ideas, and changing sexual partners.

Through infidelities and brawls she stays married to, and loves her boxer husband Willie. Victorine keeps her wits about her when many of her peers do not. She observes, “It’s always the same, artists so busy creating they can’t maintain reality.” As part of her human kindness, she helps her impoverished parents even when banned from their home.

It is a pity this remarkable woman only produced one painting that has survived.

I highly recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Gail.
Author 3 books1 follower
November 18, 2020

Victorine by Drema Drudge c2020 as reviewed by Gail M. Murray
This compelling literary novel brings Edouard Manet’s favorite model to life. Narrated in first person, by petite auburn haired Victorine, we witness the relationship between artist and model. He sees the fire in her; she calls him a gentleman admiring his restraint. As he creates his unconventional masterpieces Picnic and Olympia, we are privy to his mindset. A would be artist, bold feminist, analytical and eager to learn, she parleys with the master. The passages where Victorine reflects on art and life are most poetic. Unnerved she agrees to pose nude for Olympia in service to art. She believes “painting is collaboration….. your model depicts something you want to capture.” (p 223) No mere object, she is fully present “I do not think of modelling as work per se. I’ve been apprenticing ….. art is nearly formed in me.” (p112).
The novel is rich in subtle comments on patriarchal society’s conventions and a woman’s place. Poor, she must work to survive, keenly aware of the class divide. In art, she can portray a prostitute but not a lady so is replaced by upper class Berthe Morisot which infuriates. A complex, daring, fully developed character with fluid sexuality, Victorine is a survivor. Her self-portrait captures her essence: proud, soft, tough, enduring. Sex underscores the story with openly erotic scenes. Her sensitivity is shown in her tender care of Pug, the orphan she adopts and her rendering of Jup, her mother’s pampered pet.
Manet, undisputed leader of modern art, declines to exhibit as Monet, Degas, Renoir and others eschew the Salon. Our persistent heroine studies at Acadamie de Julian. Though accepted by the 1876 Salon, it is Manet’s approval she craves. Her self-portrait captures her essence: proud, soft, tough, enduring. Drudge fulfills her goal to return Victorine Meurent to the world as an artist. Aficionados of art history will relish this novel.
Drema Drudge, Fleur-de-Lis Press, 2020, $18.00, pb, 346pp, 978-0-9960120-3-4
Profile Image for Terri Dixon.
Author 7 books12 followers
April 27, 2020
Let's start by saying that I'm not normally a historical fiction reader. I started this book thinking that I would find it dry. This was not the case. The prose are lyrical, making the descriptions vivid and realistic. The story not only tells of Victorine, but of the Parisian art world during the 1800's and even encompasses the Franco Prussian war. The tales of war are compelling as you get to see the very human side of war survivors.
Victorine is a self made woman in a sexist time and a male dominated city and male dominated field. Her story is one of calculated risk and survival skill together to accomplish the single goal of attending art school. Her relationship with Manet is detailed and not only is it fascinating, but it taught me more about painting and art in general.
I was riveted at the way Victorine was described at various points in her life. I thought it masterful how she lived through marriage and motherhood even though she never had her own children and lost her husband at an early age. She was unconventional and conventional at the same time, making her one of the most interesting characters I've read in a long time.
The timeline which brought about the end of the story in line with the death of Manet, was a great way to structure the end of the book.
I am told that the author is writing another historical fiction, and I can't wait to read it. In a world full of tacky crime stories, horror stories, medical dramas, and dry character stories; Victorine brings historical fiction to an exciting forefront which caused me to find it hard to put it down. Congratulations Victorine! You made history come to life.
Profile Image for Shree.
Author 2 books10 followers
April 7, 2021
Historical literary fiction is one of my favorite genres. A well written literary fiction can make a reader forget their lives and push them to a utopian world that the book is set into. This book turned out to be one of the best reads of recent times.

Victorine is the story of Victorine Meurent, the muse of famous painter Manet and a skilled painter herself. The story follows the journey of Victorine as she poses for various painters, though predominantly for Manet and eventually ends up becoming a respected painter eventually. She is porta rayed as a headstrong woman who owns up every decisions that she takes.

While first person narrations are great for autobiographies, a historical/literary fiction narrated seemed odd initially. As I warmed up to Victorine, and the trails of her life, I couldn't just get enough of her. The intimacy that the first person narrative offers is just unparalleled. The rich prose just sweeps all the tiny flaws of the plot and characterizations beneath the carpet of a good narration. My only teeny tiny complaint if the extra flab mid way through the book where the author describes all the paintings after Victorine sits poses for.

As she eventually gets bored of posing and satiating the egos of male painters, she ends up finding her way to art school and blossoms into a painter of her own right. This head strong transformation was quite inspiring to read.

To sum it up, if you are looking for a literary fiction set in Europe, this book is the perfect fit.
Profile Image for Crystal Lee.
Author 3 books77 followers
April 23, 2021
I gravitate towards books that transport, and Victorine--a historical literary novel--takes readers to France in the 19th century. It's the story of a trailblazing female artist who defied the conventions of her time.
We know the woman on the cover of this book, even if we aren't familiar with her name, Victorine Meurent. Her face and body had been immortalized by artist Edouard Manet in his world famous paintings Olympia, The Picnic In Paris, etc. In Olympia, the nude model's gaze is arresting. She makes you want to know more about her. But at the time, a woman like her received scant respect nor recognition. Her modeling for Manet made his works world famous, but history hardly paid any attention or credit to his muse. Until now.
This book is truly a treasure just for the fact that author Drema Drudge's thorough research uncovered Victorine Meurent's forgotten paintings, and one of them is published for the very first time in her book.
If Victorine had lived in today's era, she would've been celebrated; she overcame the odds of poverty, war, sexism... and went from being an artist's muse to an artist in her own right. But because of the times she lived in, she was shunned, shamed, vilified. Still, she unapologetically lived for her art, for her love and passions.
This gem of a novel is for art aficionados, history buffs, francophiles, and anybody looking for a riveting read on a forgotten heroine.
Profile Image for Stephanie Dagg.
Author 78 books51 followers
March 19, 2021
This book is a wonderful illustration of all that’s best about the historical fiction literary genre. It brings to vibrant, exciting life a period of history, namely the late nineteenth century and specifically in France, together with some of its very notable, creative people.
Victorine narrates the story to us, which gives us a fascinating insight into her mind as well as her life. She’s complex, ambitious, controversial, talented, beautiful, ahead of her time. She has to struggle to achieve anything in what is most definitely a man’s world and her energy and persistence despite many setbacks are laudable. She was further disadvantaged by not coming from a wealthy background. She had to battle every step of the way in her eventful life, and you can only admire her for that and be inspired.
To match the emotional rollercoaster that is Victorine is the vacillation between war and peace, between good times and bad in Paris against which the novel is set. The author has obviously done an immense amount of research into the period, the world of the artist and the persons she portrays. It’s detailed, compelling, but never overwhelming.
Victorine is a multifaceted, excellent book, equal parts absorbing, educational and inspirational.
Profile Image for Patricia Romero.
1,386 reviews40 followers
February 21, 2021
Victorine Meurent. You may not know the name, but you know her. Take a look at Manet’s Olympia or Picnic on the Grass. Victorine models for many artists. She is living in Paris, posing nude or clothes. But her secret desire is to be the painter, not the model.

In 1863, a woman artist is laughable. It is not a career that is encouraged by parents or society. But Victorine is no ordinary woman. No. She is a force of nature, steamrolling her way to her dreams. She doesn’t want someone else’s life, she wants to live her life. And she does.

She endures the horror of the occupation of Paris. She makes do with nothing. But she is always kind and loving.

Victorine is one of the most interesting women I have had the pleasure to read about. She is smart, curious, and determined. Her personality is so strong and the author portrays her so well, you can feel her emotions. This is not something I come across every day. I wanted it to last longer. I honestly don’t have words for the energy this work of art is. Victorine came to life with the language the author used. I have a feeling we shall see more!

March 17th, 2020 by Fleur-de-Lis Press

Profile Image for E.M..
20 reviews
April 2, 2021
Drēma Drudge's debut novel, Victorine, is a must for those that enjoy historical fiction. Especially for those that love art and strong female protagonists.

Victorine is not a privileged woman. As the daughter of a hatter and a print maker whose livelihoods are threatened by new technology, Victorine is a young woman with the odds against her. Despite this, Victorine doesn't shy away from judgement or controversy. Victorine's passion is art and she's more than willing to break France's social norms in order to prove herself.

Victorine is a fascinating look at 19th century France. Through careful and meticulous research, Drudge transports the reader to Victorine's era. There the reader is shown the the struggles of artists, the elitism and sexism rampant in the art world, and the struggles of Paris' working class as they attempt to adapt to a France that is modernizing quicker than most can keep up with. Victorine's journey to becoming an artist isn't an easy one, but it's most definitely an admirable one which makes Drudge's debut novel a fascinating read from beginning to end.
Profile Image for Joe Byrd.
Author 2 books4 followers
July 11, 2021
“Victorine” is an exciting historical novel with a unique perspective -- the life of an impressionist artist is told by his model, who also was an artist. We so often read about the life of artists like Eduard Manet from their viewpoint. Drema Drudge writes a very personal story about Manet and the time in which he lived through the eyes of Victorine Meurent, his model, lover, critic, and friend. She tells us of the highs and lows of Victorine’s life, from being a successful and sought-after model to starving during Paris under siege. Victorine relates to us her positive and negative experiences of being a nude model for many of Manet’s most famous paintings, including “Olympia” and “Picnic on the Grass.” After finishing “Victorine,” I read “The Judgment of Paris” by Ross King. King’s non-fiction account of the decade that gave us Impressionism relayed a similar version of Victorine’s life and role as a model. It is gratifying that Drudge’s historical novel, which amplified the life of Victorine Meurent and her work, was verified by an accomplished art historian. “Victorine” is a beautiful and personal journey through French art that I heartily recommend.
Profile Image for Hl Haywood.
1 review2 followers
August 28, 2022
I recently had the incredible opportunity to read this stunning novel by my dear friend, Drēma Sizemore Drudge . It recently won the Goethe Award for historical fiction, and I have no doubt why it did. I have been wanting to write a post about it here for some time. I'm someone who agonizes over sending a simple email, so the idea of trying to do this gorgeous work justice has had me overwhelmed in a good way. I'm simply at a loss for words to describe this novel. It is a historical fiction portrayal of the artist Manet's muse, Victorine Meurent, who also went on to become an accomplished artist in her own right. Little is known about her life, but Drema has lovingly and masterfully created Victorine's world for us. I hung on every word as I was taken on a journey through 19th century Paris. Drema is a writer's writer and one who has left this aspiring writer in awe. This is such an important work on so many levels and could and should be taught in college classes on art history, European history, women's studies, writing...the discussion opportunities are endless. Most importantly, this book just needs to be read. So READ it!! It's a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Suanne.
Author 10 books996 followers
June 22, 2020
Victorine is Drema Drudge’s debut novel and a delight it is. She has captured the spirit of France from the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s through the Siege of Paris by the Prussians in 1870-1871 and artist Manet’s death in 1883. Victorine Meurent is one of Manet’s—and other artists’—models. Born into an artisanal family (her father runs a printing press, and her mother is a milliner), Victorine dreams of becoming an artist. Neither she nor her parents can come up with enough money to pay for art school.

This book encompasses women's issues, class differences, the ideologies of art, and the male versus female gaze. Victorine pushes the limits of the time with her overt bisexuality and her bohemian lifestyle. She uses alcohol, especially absinthe, hashish freely.

She and Manet love each other in a platonic way. She feels she helps him and other artists because, as a model, she participates in the creation of their art works; she voices her opinion and criticizes without hesitation, whether the artists she works with like it or not. Of course, the male artists don’t feel this is true. He paints her as Olympia, a euphemism for a prostitute, and captures her direct gaze. The painting creates a scandal. Manet flees Paris, leaving Victorine alone to deal with the aftermath.Over time, she accepts her body with its fuller figure, her inquiring mind, and achieves her goal to become an artist.

I got so involved in Victorine’s struggles I stayed up until four a.m. reading all 362 pages.
Profile Image for Barry Allen Drudge.
19 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2020
Drema Drudge has not only taken us to Paris in the 1860s and 70s, but into the rooms where Victorine Merreunt lived, loved, painted, and was painted.

Written in a very electrifying first person, Drudge has us looking at Victorine's world through her own lens--being a model, being part of a family, creating one's own family, and ending up taking the classes she has dreamed of so that she too can create what's in her heart.

Each character is fully formed. Understanding the boundaries of first person, we may not as readers be able to read the minds of those around her, but Victorine is fully able to form opinions. And as all humans, some are colored by her particular lens.

This book takes us into the life of a true pioneer in feminism, sexuality, and art. I feel it a privilege to hold this work in my hands. It is a stunning masterpiece!
Profile Image for Bridgette Portman.
Author 4 books167 followers
June 8, 2021
A beautiful, lyrical work of historical fiction. Victorine is a unique, vividly-drawn character, and while I'm a writer and not an artist, her yearning for immortality through creative work strongly resonated with me. I don't know a lot about art history, but the book was very accessible, and I never felt lost. I also found myself compelled to look up each of the paintings referenced, which was fun. Drudge does a brilliant job of bringing to life the nineteenth-century Parisian art scene and its luminous personalities. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Melanie.
132 reviews2 followers
April 17, 2020
Very impressive and well-paced debut novel. A deep dive into 19th century Paris through the POV of Victorine, a model for artist Manet, among others (tip: as you read, google and have handy the art referenced in the book). Drema Drudge has done an exhaustive amount of research into the time, place and people, and it shows.
Profile Image for Julia.
Author 2 books3 followers
September 2, 2020
Author Drema Drudge is so dreamily adept at writing, that she made me (someone who really doesn't find most historical fiction remotely interesting) into a fan. Knowing how the muse seized her and how cool Drema is as an individual and creative also encouraged my fandom. A worthwhile read, immersive and compelling, giving the direly needed female perspective.
Profile Image for Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger.
Author 19 books140 followers
January 9, 2022
I received this book as part of a promotion in return for my honest review. This was absolutely sublime. Drudge has written a wonderful literary portrait of Victorine, and very interestingly in the first person. This novel has got it all, and I really, really, really wish it would get more attention. It certainly deserves it!
130 reviews1 follower
July 19, 2020
Very impressed with this book and debut by Drema Drudge.
It is the story of Victorine and the art world in the 1800's.
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