The first part of this book is the personal journey of the author, an artist from Washington, who having reached the status of ‘woman of a certain age’, making her acutely aware of the aging process, feels she needs to do something about it. With herThe first part of this book is the personal journey of the author, an artist from Washington, who having reached the status of ‘woman of a certain age’, making her acutely aware of the aging process, feels she needs to do something about it. With her husband often working away from home and their children now adults, she runs to Paris, to paint. It is only when she arrives, and takes a look around the Musée d’Orsay, that she realises what it is she is going to paint; Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde.
I’m no art expert, so I had to look it up, and can appreciate that in its day (1866) its explicitness of the female form, wouldn’t have been for all eyes. From her daily visits to the museum, in her new role as official copyist of this piece, Lilianne, studies its every brush stroke as she attempts to reproduce her own version, often under the scrutiny of the visiting public. She feels the power of the painting as she watches the varying reactions it produces and arrives at the end of her six weeks a different person.
The second part of the book is a work of historical fiction that adds the backstory from first sketch to finished work, and then from art lover, dealer and collector, as L’Origine quietly makes its almost secret journey. Lilianne takes us back to Courbet’s studio, his muse, his lovers and his life dedicated to pushing rules and boundaries. It is known that the first owner of this privately commissioned piece was a Turkish/Egyptian diplomat called Khalil-Bey, who spent his time in Paris during the 1860’s collecting fine art and gambling his family fortunes away, but it’s journey during the 20th Century is less well-known. Lilianne has done her research to uncover its owners and their secrets up to when it was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in 1995.
As Lilianne cleverly dips in and out of European history, culture and the troubled periods, we follow those involved and get to rub shoulders with famous names in art and literature whose paths crossed with the painting or its many owners. We see the power it has over relationships and the trouble it causes, but also the pleasure it brings too. Her passion for this piece and its story soon had me fascinated, even though it was a work of art that I’d not previously heard of. I was intrigued by its owners, their society lifestyles and the changing attitudes to the painting. This book certainly paints a colourful picture of a special work of art and opened my eyes to periods of art, history and culture I was unaware of....more
One Summer in Monte Carlo is a book with a real mix of different characters, all with their own story lines, and all entwined around the wealthy lifestyle of those lucky enough to live in Monaco. There are apartments with balconies and harbour side vOne Summer in Monte Carlo is a book with a real mix of different characters, all with their own story lines, and all entwined around the wealthy lifestyle of those lucky enough to live in Monaco. There are apartments with balconies and harbour side views, fine dining in the hills above Nice and the roar of Formula 1 that comes crashing into daily life, but there is also a secret from the past that seemed to have been forgotten.
As the PA and fiancée of racing driver Zac Ewart, Nanette was once part of the F1 social scene. She organised parties on his yacht and attended events on his arm, until the car accident three years ago, that she can’t remember, left her ostracised and alone. Monte Carlo, Zac and the privileged lifestyle were firmly in her past, until her best friend Vanessa asks her a huge favour. Her decision to return for one summer, and face those who hurt her, might be just what she needs to help free her from the past, but it could open up opportunities for her future too.
There is more to this book than the glitz and the glamour of its Monte Carlo location, it also shows the importance of family, friendship and being there for the ones you love. Nanette discovers Monaco has changed and with the new faces it seems there are also dirty deals being done that have far reaching consequences. Who is involved and how risky it is, will be something else for her to work out as she attempts to move on with her future. This shady side of life in Monaco added suspense, tension and a few twists to the book.
It is always exciting to be back in a Jennifer Bohnet book and although I’d read Follow Your Star, many years ago, I’ve really enjoyed reading this updated version. If the buzz of Formula 1 and the lifestyle of the rich and famous is where you want to be, if only on a short break, this book would be a perfect winter escape....more
We are with nineteen-year-old Jeanne Hébuterne as she falls to her death, just days after her lover, the artist Modigliani, dies. It is a brutal death and together with her trapped spirit we witness the horror on her family’s faces as they see her crWe are with nineteen-year-old Jeanne Hébuterne as she falls to her death, just days after her lover, the artist Modigliani, dies. It is a brutal death and together with her trapped spirit we witness the horror on her family’s faces as they see her crumpled, broken body in the courtyard of their Parisian apartment.
As Jeanne comes to terms with what she has done, we are with her as she takes her first steps in the afterlife, desperate to do all she can to be reunited with her beloved Modi. With the help of unexpected new friends, she travels through portals that take her between a seemingly parallel Paris for the dead, the underworld, and even give her a glimpse into the future she missed. Death for Jeanne is like a dream where you never quite seem to get where you need to be, and where increasingly bizarre situations crop up to delay your progress.
This is a book of many parts, each one as intriguing as the other. No sooner had I got settled into the afterlife, when we are transported back to Paris, in the 1980’s, where an art student writing her thesis is introduced to a mysterious elderly lady. Annie is one of the last people alive to have met Modi and Jeanne, but time is running out for her and she has secrets she needs to share, before it is too late.
When Jeanne’s diaries turn up unexpectedly, decades after her death, the next part of this book takes us back into Montparnasse and the Parisian art scene during the First World War. The parties, the deceit, the poverty, the passion. We follow the young Jeanne as she begins to break away from the safety of her bourgeois family and find her independence with the artists she so admires.
Each different part of this book captivated me and swept me up in the mystery of Jeanne’s life, and the final part, which was probably the most unexpected, brought everything together just perfectly and left me with a smile on my face.
With Jeanne’s life and death being such an enigma, this isn’t the first fiction book I have read about her, and it certainly left me wanting to know more about Jeanne, Modi, his art, and their daughter. I couldn’t have picked a better book to begin a new year of reading....more