Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommended for readers interested in the lives of Mary Cassatt and/or Edgar Degas
The young Mary Cassatt never thought moving to Paris after the Civil War to be an artist was going to be easy, but when, after a decade of work, her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary’s fierce determination wavers. Her father is begging her to return to Philadelphia to find a husband before it is too late, her sister Lydia is falling mysteriously ill, and worse, Mary is beginning to doubt herself. Then one evening a friend introduces her to Edgar Degas and her life changes forever. Years later she will learn that he had begged for the introduction, but in that moment their meeting seems a miracle. So begins the defining period of her life and the most tempestuous of relationships.
I finished reading this book about a week and a half ago. Normally, I write up my reviews within 24 hours of finishing a book, but I needed much more time with this one to decide what I actually thought about it.
Mary Cassatt is my favorite impressionist and I had heard about her relationship with Degas when I took an Art History class in college (although my professor insisted that their relationship was was platonic) so I found the subject matter attractive. I was quickly drawn into the book, due to both Oliveria's readable voice and the fact that she so vividly brings to life late 19th-century Paris.
Oliveira does a nice job of bringing to life both Cassatt and Degas. Cassatt is striving to excel past the boundaries defined by her gender and nationality. I don't completely buy that Oliveira's depiction of their relationship is accurate, but it is interesting to the reader.
But, ultimately I didn't find this book to be satisfying. I tried to figure out what the problem was and I think it is that Oliveira spends a lot of time on secondary story lines. While I appreciated that she brought in other impressionists in more than just a mention way, I did feel that she spent too much time developing their stories and it took away from the central story.
I am glad I read this book--it reminded me how much I love Mary Cassatt's work--but I'm not sure I would recommend it to others, unless they were especially interested in Mary Cassatt or Edgar Degas.
I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.