Lydia Cassat Reading the Morning Paper: A Novel

Lydia Cassat Reading the Morning Paper: A Novel

by Harriet Scott Chessman

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Harriet Scott Chessman takes us into the world of Mary Cassatt's early Impressionist paintings through Mary's sister Lydia, whom the author sees as Cassatt’s most inspiring muse. Chessman hauntingly brings to life Paris in 1880, with its thriving art world. The novel’s subtle power rises out of a sustained inquiry into art’s relation to the ragged world of desire and mortality. Ill with Bright’s disease and conscious of her approaching death, Lydia contemplates her world narrowing. With the rising emotional tension between the loving sisters, between one who sees and one who is seen, Lydia asks moving questions about love and art’s capacity to remember. Chessman illuminates Cassatt’s brilliant paintings and creates a compelling portrait of the brave and memorable model who inhabits them with such grace. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper includes five full-color plates, the entire group of paintings Mary Cassatt made of her sister.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609802530
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publication date: 01/04/2011
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 174
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

HARRIET SCOTT CHESSMAN is the author of the acclaimed novels Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper and Ohio Angels, as well as The Public Is Invited to Dance, a book about Gertrude Stein. Formerly associate professor of English at Yale University, she has also taught literature and writing at Bread Loaf School of English and at Wesleyan University, and has published several essays on modern literature. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

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Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
lkernagh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What can I say about this book? Chessman has created an amazing fictional glimpse into the life of American Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, through the eyes of her older sister and sometimes model Lydia. The story, told in 5 chapters and a mere 163 pages, is a fascinating portrait of Mary, Lydia - who suffered from and died of Bright's Disease - and the time period, both artistic and non-artistic. Each chapter is focused on presenting the setting of each painting Lydia modeled for Mary - a written portrait of a painting in progress.While this is a work of fiction, Chessman has build upon the facts that Mary Cassatt lived much of her adult life in France - where the book is set - and that she had befriended fellow painter Edgar Degas, who is also portrayed in Chessman's novel. Chessman relied on the paintings Lydia modeled for during her final years, and captures what may have been discussed, witnessed and thought of by Lydia, between September 1878 and Lydia's death on November 7, 1882. Chessman delves into Lydia's worries, her frustrations with her failing health and her thoughts of her family that surround her in their fifth floor apartment in Paris.I found this to be a poignantly beautiful story that I feel captures the essence of the Impressionist era, life in Paris in the late 1880's and, hopefully, a good characterization of the thoughts and feelings of Lydia Cassett in her final years. A stunning story I highly recommend, for both art lovers and readers that take an interest in the human condition in general. The inclusion of glossy print copies of the paintings within the chapters is a nice touch and I enjoyed examining the paintings as much as I enjoyed reading Chessman's story.
chewbecca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very quick read for me and only took me about a day-and-a-half total. It was well-written and really gives you a sense of what Lydia Cassat may have been going through. At the same time, I think I would've liked it more if it had been more linear and more of a story rather then a collection of recollections. Still not a bad read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.