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
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.)
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):
Mary Cassatt’s & Edgar Degas’ Self Portraits:
Berthe Morisot as painted by Edouard Manet (2 other fascinating characters in the book):