Luncheon of the Boating Party

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Overview

Bestselling author Susan Vreeland returns with a vivid exploration of one of the most beloved Renoir paintings in the world

Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir?s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a cafe terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir?s future wife, among others, share this moment of la ...
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Luncheon of the Boating Party

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Overview

Bestselling author Susan Vreeland returns with a vivid exploration of one of the most beloved Renoir paintings in the world

Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a cafe terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir’s future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War. Parisians were bursting with a desire for pleasure and a yearning to create something extraordinary out of life. Renoir shared these urges and took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love, all the while facing issues of loyalty and the diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models and using settings in Paris and on the Seine, Vreeland illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, she paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs in a brilliant portrait of her own.
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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
Vreeland's most ambitious book yet.
Parade
If a trip to Paris is a bit outside of your price range, Vreeland's new novel is the next best thing.
San Diego Union-Tribune
A masterwork.
Seattle Times
Exquisitely wrought . . . this summer's most satisfying historical novel.
Baltimore Sun
Vreeland takes the big bold brush strokes of Renoir's personal and artistic oeuvre and displays them with her usual vividness in this eponymous novel. . . . Sensual and provocative.
Publishers Weekly
Imagining the banks of the Seine in the thick of la vie moderne, Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue) tracks Auguste Renoir as he conceives, plans and paints the 1880 masterpiece that gives her vivid fourth novel its title. Renoir, then 39, pays the rent on his Montmartre garret by painting "overbred society women in their fussy parlors," but, goaded by negative criticism from Emile Zola, he dreams of doing a breakout work. On July 20, the daughter of a resort innkeeper close to Paris suggests that Auguste paint from the restaurant's terrace. The party of 13 subjects Renoir puts together (with difficulty) eventually spends several Sundays drinking and flirting under the spell of the painter's brush. Renoir, who declares, "I only want to paint women I love," falls desperately for his newest models, while trying to win his last subject back from her rich fiance. But Auguste and his friends only have two months to catch the light he wants and fend off charges that he and his fellow Impressionists see the world "through rose-colored glasses." Vreeland achieves a detailed and surprising group portrait, individualized and immediate. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Here, Vreeland uses words to paint the changing world of late 19th-century France. After being stung by remarks in an essay written by French novelist Émile Zola concerning the inadequacies of Impressionism, Pierre-Auguste Renoir is goaded to paint a masterpiece surpassing his Montmartre spectacle Bal au Moulin de la Galette, which will finally establish this school as heir to the artistic traditions of France and Italy. He uses models, allowing the listener to experience la vie moderne, the new modes of living, thinking, and expressing that transformed the social world of the late 19th century into the one we inhabit today. Alphonsine, daughter of the proprietor of La Maison Fournaise, and Angèle, a debauched child of Montmartre, are naturals. The beautiful yet spoiled Circe, fobbed off on Renoir by a jaded Parisian socialite, provokes a crisis when she quits midstream, refusing to be painted in profile. Renoir finds her replacement in Aline, a 19-year-old seamstress he will one day marry. Other models add their own piquancy. Karen White brings a cadenced elegance to her reading that is set off by her irreverent over-the-top voicing of the snobby Circe and the naïve innocence of Aline. Recommended for libraries with a commitment to historical fiction and books about art.
—David Faucheux

Library Journal
Narrated by Renoir and the friends he featured in his famed Luncheon of the Boating Party, this work allows us to visit 19th-century France. With an 11-city tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781415939734
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2007
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland is the internationally renowned author of five books, including Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

Biography

"When I was nine, my great-grandfather, a landscape painter, taught me to mix colors," Susan Vreeland recalls in an interview on her publisher's web site. "With his strong hand surrounding my small one, he guided the brush until a calla lily appeared as if by magic on a page of textured watercolor paper. How many girls throughout history would have longed to be taught that, but had to do washing and mending instead?"

As a grown woman, Vreeland found her own magical way of translating her vision of the world into art. While teaching high school English in the 1980s, she began to write, publishing magazine articles, short stories, and her first novel, What Love Sees. In 1996, Vreeland was diagnosed with lymphoma, which forced her to take time off from teaching -- time she spent undergoing medical treatment and writing stories about a fictional Vermeer painting.

"Creative endeavor can aid healing because it lifts us out of self-absorption and gives us a goal," she later wrote. In Vreeland's case, her goal "was to live long enough to finish this set of stories that reflected my sensibilities, so that my writing group of twelve dear friends might be given these and know that in my last months I was happy -- because I was creating."

Vreeland recovered from her illness and wove her stories into a novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. The book was a national bestseller, praised by The New York Times as "intelligent, searching and unusual" and by Kirkus Reviews as "extraordinarily skilled historical fiction: deft, perceptive, full of learning, deeply moving." Its interrelated stories move backward in time, creating what Marion Lignana Rosenberg in Salon called "a kind of Chinese box unfolding from the contemporary hiding-place of a painting attributed to Vermeer all the way back to the moment the work was conceived."

Vreeland's next novel, The Passion of Artemisia, was based on the life of the 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi, often regarded as the first woman to hold a significant place in the history of European art. "Forthright and imaginative, Vreeland's deft recreation ably showcases art and life," noted Publishers Weekly.

Love for the visual arts, especially painting, continues to fire Vreeland's literary imagination. Her new novel, The Forest Lover, is a fictional exploration of the life of the 20th-century Canadian artist Emily Carr. She has also written a series of art-related short stories. For Vreeland, art provides inspiration for living as well as for literature. As she put it in an autobiographical essay, "I hope that by writing art-related fiction, I might bring readers who may not recognize the enriching and uplifting power of art to the realization that it can serve them as it has so richly served me."

Good To Know

Two other novels relating to Vermeer were published within a year of Girl in Hyacinth Blue: The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

Vreeland lives in San Diego with her husband, a software engineer. She taught high school English and ceramics for 30 years before retiring to become a full-time writer.

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    1. Hometown:
      San Diego, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 20, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Racine, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      San Diego State University
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I kept falling asleep

    There was nothing in the first few chapters to bring me back. While riding to work on the bus, I kept falling asleep!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2007

    Disappointing

    I picked up this book on the strength of Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue and because I love the impressionist painters. Sadly, I was disappointed. The pace is slow and the characters shallow, and the author seems more intent on showing off her own knowledge of painting than in creating an engaging novel.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 16, 2014

    In the summer of 1880 at a restaurant along the banks of the Sei

    In the summer of 1880 at a restaurant along the banks of the Seine downstream from Paris, goaded on by the taunts of Emil Zola, Pierre-Auguste Renoir set out to produce the definitive masterpiece of Impressionism. Over a period of several weeks during that summer Renoir assembled a troupe of friends and models, posing them on the upper terrace of the restaurant La Maison Fournaise overlooking the Seine. The author details both the artistic (such as eliminating the appearance of scene floating in air) and the practical (such as coming up with fourteen rather than thirteen characters) challenges faced by Renoir in producing the huge canvas.
    Susan Vreeland has written a story of that titled work, Le déjeuner des canotiers, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, that simultaneously captures both the artistic temperament of the Renoir and the personalities of the models in the masterwork. The author skillfully employs a grammar and structure that mimics in words what Impressionism meant to deliver on the canvas.
    Only toward the end of the book does Vreeland drift occasionally into bits of modern language and political correctness that mars somewhat a text that is otherwise historically and artistically accurate.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Really enjoying it!

    A friend had suggested the audio version, but being a lover of books I chose the book. I love Impressionist art and even had a print of the subject painting in my home. I'm really enjoying the details and personality quirks of the characters and how the author has wound the history and politics and fashion of the time into the story. Looking forward to another!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Meet the People in the Picture

    A very enjoyable read, filled with atmosphere of the period. Interesting insights into the picture and the artist's struggle to depict an idea. Very descriptive of the relationships among the people portrayed.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    Brings art to life!

    This book is great! If you love Renoir (and I do) then you will appreciate this book. It really brings the artist to life and the painting as well. I have enjoyed this author before and look forward to reading more of her books. This would make an excellent gift for impressionist art lovers! I recommend this book to all!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Art as love

    What goes through an artist's mind during the act of creating a painting? Susan Vreeland makes that question the theme of Luncheon of the Boating Party. Generally agreed to be one of Renoir's masterpieces, Luncheon is a huge canvas depicting fourteen people enjoying a repast at an inn along the River Seine. Renoir is depicted at the pivotal point in his career when he was struggling to decide whether to persist with the impressionist genre, or to incorporate more formal techniques and styles. Provoked by a critical comment from Emile Zola, he embarks upon a quest to produce a work to serve as the definitive rebuttal.

    Vreeland immerses her readers within the heart of Montmartre and the romantic Parisian ideal of "modern life". A joyous commingling of street scenes and cafe society, artists and models, dealers and yachtsmen, Luncheon is an earthy, incandescent evocation of one of the art world's most momentous eras. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2007

    I liked this book a lot

    I have often viewed this painting and wondered about the people in the painting. It seemed to me that life was always beautiful to these people and today's problems did not apply. Oh to live in that time. In reading the book, I see the story behind the people and realize that life wasn't all sunshine and Sunday as it shows in the painting. I liked the information given about how the painting came together. I've always loved impressionism but after reading this book, I'll look at art with a more knowledgeable eye and will view lines and colors in a new way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2007

    Great fun!

    The rich characters and luscious landscapes of Paris and the surrounding countryside made this book so much fun to read. Loved it.

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