Tag Archives: paris

Book Review: I Always Loved You: A Novel by Robin Oliveira

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 about it the last day, I did like it, and it’s prompted me to want to learn more on a topic 10 days ago I had no interest in.  So I’d take that as a sign of a good book (see the bottom for some of my “research.”

Having no background in art history, I could recognize some of the names, but I had no idea much more about them.  And this is a random comparison, but what kept popping into my head after I finished on how to describe this book is: Real World: Paris, 19th Century  Or the Impressionists.  And the people all happened to be artists.  Renoir, Manet, Monet, Cassatt, Degas, Morisot, Pissaro (and many more).  Some names familiar to me, others not, but in my brief Wikipedia research, they all were real (and quite the motley crew), as were the other characters in the book.  I guess it was also a “before they were famous” story too.  A bunch of starving artists spending their days dreaming, painting, partying, trying to make a buck, and preparing for the next exhibition.

The main character in the book was Mary Cassatt, an American painter, invited to join the group, and her struggle to fit in among the Paris natives, and make a name for herself in the Paris art scene.  Her relationship throughout the book with Degas is a fun, yet very frustrating one.  Her family comes to join her in Paris too and even in the 1800’s, her struggles with them were so easy to relate to.  I especially enjoyed her relationship with her sister Lydia (again who I confirmed was real – see her portrait by Mary below.)

File:Cassatt Mary At the Theater 1879.jpg

Fun facts were thrown in all over the place, like her friend Abigail Alcott, whose more famous sister is Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.  At some points, I felt a map of Paris would have been helpful as they discussed a lot of landmarks, not a bad thing, and not that I know Paris, but would have been fun to see in the book.  But overall the book was just packed with great stories, complex and compelling relationships, and a ton of history.

As you can guess from the title, a love story too, but what’s fun is that it actually could be a few love stories.  A lot of plot lines are intertwined, and I was confused at some points, but as I said when I started, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  Look out for it in just a few weeks.  This is the perfect historical fiction.

And here is the result of some of my research and some notable art mentioned throughout the book.  All taken from Wikipedia.

Degas Little Dancer (a sculpture discussed a lot in the book):

File:Dancer sculpture by Degas at the Met.jpg

Mary Cassatt’s & Edgar Degas’ Self Portraits:

Mary Cassatt - Portrait of the Artist - MMA 1975.319.1.jpg Edgar Degas self portrait 1855.jpeg

Berthe Morisot as painted by Edouard Manet (2 other fascinating characters in the book):

Edouard Manet 040.jpg

And then a lot was centered around the ballet.  Degas painted the dancers, while Cassatt painted the crowd.File:Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas 004.jpg



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Book Review: City of Light (City of Mystery: Book II)

By Kim Wright

Downloaded Free on 4/24/13

Finish time: 11 nights.  Not as good as the first book in this series.  This book started off really slow.  I had a hard time getting into the book and keeping track of characters.  Rayley Abrams is not a typical main character, but he was carried over from the previous book, and it brought the story from London to Paris. A few of the other characters came as well including Geraldine Bainbridge, a quirkly older socialite from London who always proves to be good company!

What started off as two separate investigations, came together as Detective Welles and Detective Abrams corresponded between London and Paris.  I enjoy a good crime show (Law & Order or CSI), so it was actually pretty interesting to see the advent of forensics (think CSI minus all technology) through early fingerprint analysis and blood testing (albeit on animals which I am NOT a fan of – but luckily we were spared details).  I also enjoyed the historical side of the book – the building of Eiffel’s Tower in preparation for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889.  Reminded me a bit of Devil in the White City in pointing out what celebrities, inventions, etc were debuted at this event.  As pointed out in the notes at the end, the event was real as well as the “crime” being investigated.  All the characters were fictionalized.  Very typical historical fiction!  It did leave me wondering if there is really a secret room on top of the Eiffel tower?  According to Wikipedia – apparently there is (in case you were curious too!)

The investigation/crime was a bit of a disturbing one (think Law & Order SVU worthy).  Luckily gory details were spared, and as I got further into the book, it did get much better as you take the journey with the detectives, and the motley crew they have put together, to investigate and eventually solve this crime.  Takes a bit of an unexpected turn with an unlikely final hero(ine), but ends very well.

The author does another great job at setting the scene and characters so you can really feel like you are a part of the journey.  So if you can hang on through the first 20% or so (I have no idea how many pages are in books anymore!), the ending is worth it and it was an enjoyable read.

Now – whether to continue with this author’s 3rd book – City of Silence (City of Mystery Book III) or pick up something a little lighter, as we leave on vacation in just 4 days!?  Stay tuned and find out!

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