Customer Reviews for

I am Madame X

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Worth a Thousand Words

    While, I loved the writing style, the character development, and the factual details, I was constantly disturbed by one minor point. Before I delve into that, let me explain. I was born and raised in South Louisiana, and so, naturally, I know a thing or two about my native state. Ms. Diliberto constantly refers to Virginie Avegno's "Creole" heritage. And, although the author did a lot of research in New Orleans and New Roads, she missed a huge cultural fact. The Creoles are mulattos-Native American, African, and French. The Creoles inhabit New Orleans mostly and are world-renowned for their voodoo and tomato-based cuisine. It is impossible that Virginie Avegno was a Creole, especially since she had translucent skin and flaming red hair. She would have been Cajun. Yes, there is an exceedingly large difference between Creoles and Cajuns, the only thing we share in common is a bit of French blood. The Cajuns speak French, a very bastardized dialect, but French nonetheless and cook more with spices like garlic and red pepper. I am making this point because I have noticed that whenever Louisiana is mentioned in a book, any book, authors who live anywhere but Louisiana expound on the Creole culture. I wish they would do their research. Most of Louisiana is Cajun-Acadian, and Creole is in the minority. Maybe I am being nit-picky, and I'm sorry. I did think it was a great novel, especially for art admirers of John Singer Sargent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    As a Sargent enthusiast, I was really disappointed in this novel. Diliberto's writing style is very technical, but not at all flowery and there are some factual mistakes and errors throughout the book. In real life, the title character, Virginie Amelie Gautreau was rarely called by her first name and was referred to as Amelie. Also, her husband, Pierre Gautreau, was almost always called Pedro, in connection with his business in South America. The author spent too much time on Amelie's childhood and didn't really capture the essence of her notorious personality. Amelie was vain, sensual, proud, and difficult, which isn't really brought into Diliberto's character who is placid and sappy. I highly recommend 'Strapless' by Deborah Davis, which gives a more accurate portrait of Belle Epoque Paris, the controversy surrounding Madame X, and of the actual people while being just as engrossing as a novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2005

    A Perfect Book

    This book kept my interest from the beginning. It was totally entertaining without being trite or contrived and it was a perfect glimpse into the time period. I also loved learning about the process of a John Singer Sargeant painting (my favorite artist)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    An Incredible Book

    This book was amazing. I have not been so enthralled with a book in a long time. The book, like the painting, comes to life. You can imagine being Virginie in Paris. I love this book. So much history yet still personal. I cannot say enough how much I liked this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    A wonderful story

    I thoroughly enjoyed Madame X - a wonderful piece of fiction with factual bits thrown in. Much like 'Girl with a Peal Earring', this is a novel surrounding a painting... this one is a work by John Sargent, Madame X. You will fall in love with the characters and you see the painting come to life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    Interesting

    It was interesting to scurry around in the world of Madame X and John Singer Sargent, and I look forward to personally seeing the painting. I certainly stopped reading more than once to look at Madame X on the book cover. Nice historical novel...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2003

    An Interesting Novel That Hits Close To Home

    I just finished reading the remainder of this novel last night while in bed. This is the third time in my life that any book has kept me turning pages to the point where I would forfeit a decent night's sleep because of it. At this writing, I still have not gone to bed. I just wanted to express to anyone who might read this how wonderful a novel 'I Am Madame X' truly is. What first attracted the novel to me was the cover, which seemed so striking to me. But then again, a ghostly white woman contrasted against a dark background and pitch black dress has a strong tendency to attract someone's attention at first glance, you know? Plus, I happen to be quite a fan of historical novels, especially ones set in the 1800's like this beautiful novel is. This novel is full of subjects that range from intimacy and passion to war and destruction. But the one theme of the novel that I enjoyed the most was its theme of maturing and growing up, as well as the struggles between a mother and daughter to understand and relate to one another. While reading this novel, what blew me away was how so much of Virginie's life and personality mirrored my own in many ways, especially when it concerned her encounters with men. While reading 'I Am Madame X', I could only grimace in utter disgust over her relationship with the charismatic doctor, bringing to mind the 'Sam Pozzi's' of my own past who I would rather forget. As a female, I could not help but relate and connect to the character of Virginie and her many exploits and emotions, which is why I think this novel was so enjoyable to me. It truly is a 'chick's book' that was written beautifully, and I recommend it to anyone in the mood to read about an intriguing and tasteful 19th century woman

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2003

    fast and highly entertaining

    i loved this book. i read it in 2 days. the setting of paris and the oppulent lifestyles of the rich is most entertaining. i hope this author writes more fiction books

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2003

    A love for art and literature

    I have been on an art kick lately and found this book. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, I just didn't want to put it down. I even found myself reading the author's notes in the back. I thought her notes shed some light on the true facts of the subject and where she took creative license. It is a very interesting look at a woman immortilized on canvas and it is beautifully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2003

    AN ENGROSSING TALE OF LIFE AND LOVE

    Few portraits capture the eye as arrestingly as John Singer Sargent's Madame X. And, at an unveiling, few portraits cause the stir and affect lives as greatly as did this full-length study of a beautiful woman in a chic black gown. With the skill of a consummate dramatist biographer Gioia Diliberto has penned her first novel by drawing upon the few facts known about Singer's mysterious subject. The result is a fully realized, fascinating story rich in period detail. As was known to the Paris Salon in 1884 and as we know today when Madame X hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art the haughty yet beguiling woman is Virginie Gautreau. Born in New Orleans and raised on her grandmother's Louisiana sugar plantation, Virginie, her mother, and younger sister, Valentine, sought refuge in France as tides began to turn in the Civil War. Her most vivid memory of life at Parlange, as the plantation was called, is of her Aunt Julie's wedding day. In an attempt to escape an unwanted marriage 28-year-old Julie, an aspiring artist, threw herself from a second floor gallery breaking both legs. 'Men are bothersome beings,' Julie had said. 'I don't want to spend my days worrying about one.' Then 6-year-old Virginie may have heeded her aunt's words, as she seldom worried about the well being of men but used them to her advantage. Upon arriving in Paris Virginie is sent to a dreaded convent school where she meets her first friend, Aurelie. Unbeknownst to Virginie her friend is 'passing for white,' and is expelled from the school when an outraged letter is received from Virginie's mother. The loss of her friend and confidant is devastating to Virginie, and is one of many attempts by her mother to manage the young girl's life in order to use her as an entree to the higher echelons of Parisian society. But Virginie is not easily managed. She is soon recognized as a unique beauty and comes to expect the tributes she receives as her right. At the age of 15 she begins an affair with the handsome, unscrupulous Dr.Pozzi, ignoring her mother's shrieked warning: 'He has a heart like an artichoke - a leaf for everyone, as the old Creoles used to say.' When she becomes pregnant Pozzi refuses to marry her, and insists upon an abortion. Heartbroken and fearful, the young Virginie accepts the proposal of Pierre Gautreau, an older banker who suggests a 'marriage blanc,' in which he will have no husbandly rights and they will lead separate lives. Following a miscarriage Virginie devoted every waking hour to her appearance, turning her hair to a 'deep, rich mahogany,' whitening her skin, and rouging her ears. She embraced the dictum, 'A woman's first duty is to be beautiful.' The gowns she chose were daring for their bareness, accentuating her porcelain shoulders, and making her the focal point of every gathering. She soon was noted for her boldness as well as her beauty, and began an affair with political leader Leon Gambetta. When Sargent initially approached Virginie about painting her portrait she was reluctant. But later became convinced that his success as a painter and acceptance by the Salon were credentials enough. Surely, she thought, his portrait of her and its introduction at the Salon would make her known throughout the European world. As history relates the debut of her portrait had the opposite effect. Viewed as scandalous and shocking it was greeted with derisive jeers from the crowd. Infuriated by this response Virginie's mother lashed out at Sargent whose career was now in shambles. The artist fled to England where he was to gain fame and make a handsome living. And, the painting rather than turning Virginie into the pariah that her mother feared later made her an international celebrity. It was so admired that King Louis II of Bavaria visited Paris just to see her, and Empress Elizabeth of Austria requested an introduction. To this day the famous portrait of Ma

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    Posted December 13, 2012

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