Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper / Edition 1by Harriet Scott Chessman
Pub. Date: 10/28/2002
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Set in the lively Parisian art world of the 1880s, this novel imagines a poignant time in the lives of the American impressionist Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia. Lydia narrates the story as she poses for five of her sister's paintings. Ill with Bright's disease and conscious of impending death, Lydia contemplates her narrowing world. The novel's subtle power comes… See more details below
Set in the lively Parisian art world of the 1880s, this novel imagines a poignant time in the lives of the American impressionist Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia. Lydia narrates the story as she poses for five of her sister's paintings. Ill with Bright's disease and conscious of impending death, Lydia contemplates her narrowing world. The novel's subtle power comes from its sustained inquiry into the very evanescence of life that the paintings record.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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Table of Contents
|1. Woman Reading||1|
|3. The Garden||75|
|5. Lydia Seated at an Embroidery Frame||135|
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Why would anyone read fiction to find an absolute truth? it offers a chance to explore what could be the truth. to call an author arrogant and exploitive is to condemn all who write fiction or explore a possible reality.
Eh. I really hate it when I get excited over a book and then it bores me senseless. That's what this one did. Bummer. Usually, when I write a book, I say something along the lines of 'it was well written but..' and usually, what I mean by that is 'I didn't really like it much, but I understand what the author was trying to do..' or something to that affect. In the case of this book, I understand that the author was writing a fictional work about the Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt. Now, either Mary Cassatt was the most boring person in the history of existance or this author just doesn't posess the knack for storytelling. To me, the book was not only boring, but unfocused and abrupt. It details the process of five paintings and devles into the relationship between Mary and her model her sister Lydia, who is very ill and dying. While the book does touch upon their relationship, it doesn't go deep enough..there are other characters that are introduced who soon disappear leaving the reader wondering 'so who is this? how do they know him? oh wait, it doesn't matter, because now he's gone from the story.' A total feeling of dissatisfaction. Generally, I like the historical art fiction novels. Not so much this one. I've said it before, but if you're looking for something in this genre, pick up something by Tracy Chevalier or Susan Vreeland..they're wonderful.
I am wondering if anyone else has considered the larger moral issue here, which is the author's assumption that she has the ability (or the power, perhaps?) to reconstruct the thoughts and feelings of a person who actually lived and breathed. Is this book an honoable attempt to give a voice to someone who lived largely in the shadows of a larger than life figure or does this book depict the height of arrogance and exploitation despite its lovely language and favorable portrayal? I enjoyed many elements of the book, but the feeling that somehow I was participating in the objectification of a tragic soul for the sake of a good read marred my ability to really get everything out reading the book that I hoped for.
This book sensitively explores the relationship between sisters, between poetry and art, between life and death, between love and loss. It's the best book I've read all year. The writing is very gentle and warming, in complete contrast to the bitterness and cold feelings of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Read it, enjoy it, and tell all your friends; writing this good deserves to be shared.