Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: "I Always Loved You" by Robin Oliveira

I Always Loved You Robin Oliveira
Published: 2/4/14
ISBN: 9780670785797
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley
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.

My Thoughts:
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.

I Always Loved You
by Robin Oliveira

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