In this wonderful novel chronicling the life of one of painter Edouard Manet’s primary models, Gibbon (Thief) takes readers on a mesmerizing, erotic journey not only to another time and place but inside the mind of an artist. When we meet Victorine (the opening line is, “That day I am seventeen and I am wearing the boots of a whore”), the young girl who will become Manet’s muse, we are presented with a self-aware teenager, poor but full of imagination, with a penchant for drawing and a hunger to experience life. She is drawn to the mysterious Manet, who befriends Victorine and her roomate Denise, and what starts as a harmless ménage à trois becomes something much more when Trine (as Manet calls her) forces the artist to choose between the two women. As their affair develops, Trine comes to learn that Manet wants her to pose for him, which she does with increasing abandon, though she knows the relationship won’t last. Using spare, evocative prose, Gibbon shows us a young woman on the verge of finding her own artistic voice and offers an insightful and riveting account of how Manet and his muse feed off of each other’s passion to create something greater than either of them. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Agency. (Apr.)
Paris Red is a novel to fill your senses: beautiful, brilliant, delicious, full of taste and sight and heart. It is a very Paris of a novel.
Intense and erotic.
Allison Taylor - Harper's Bazaar
Seventeen-year-old Victorine's life is changed forever when she and her friend are approached on a Paris street by an unusual stranger. The man, impressionist painter Édouard Manet, expresses sexual interest in both girls, but a fascinated Victorine casts friendship quickly aside for his sake and becomes his lover and the model for some of his most renowned paintings, including his nude Olympia. Refusing to accept a permanently passive role in their relationship, she soon develops artistic ambitions of her own. VERDICT The strength of Gibbon's third novel (after Thief and Swimming Sweet Arrow) lies in Victorine's vivid sensual descriptions of the world around her and in the believable portrayal of the psychology of a gifted but immature young woman changed by her relationship with a famous man. By focusing so closely on the self-absorbed Victorine's inner life and on candid physical descriptions of her sexual encounters with the artist, however, Gibbon gives comparatively short shrift to developing Manet as a character or to exploring the historical context of his work, something that may disappoint readers looking for a Tracy Chevalier or Susan Vreeland read-alike.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL
It is 1862. In the raucous streets of Paris, 17-year-old Victorine and her friend Denise are standing in front of a store drawing pictures when a wealthy man approaches them to watch. He invites them to dine. Victorine is taken with this man, and he with her. They begin a love affair starting with small kisses and walks through the city until one day Victorine knows that she cannot continue to leave him each night to return home. They become lovers, and she leaves her work and her friend to become his model, for he is the artist Edouard Manet. Obviously intrigued by this young beauty, Manet draws her into this studio and his life. They make love, and she poses for him each day as he draws sketch after sketch until he is finally ready to bring that sensuality to the large canvas he has waiting. Victorine begins to see that she is more than what she thought she could be. The wild abandon that makes up the Paris streets in 1862 can appeal to the teenager who loves French, history, or art. Teens who know little about Manet or the context of his painting of nudes will want to explore more in order to place Victorine within a context and discover more about her life. VERDICT Mature teens for whom sexual description is not an embarrassment will find Victorine to be a young woman ahead of her time.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
Manet's muse ponders color, power, sex and love in vibrant 1860s Paris. Based on the true relationship between artist Edouard Manet and model Victorine Meurent and set on the cusp of the impressionist revolution, Gibbon's (Thief, 2010, etc.) novel explores this landmark time in art history through the eyes of the artist's subject. Victorine lives and works with her best friend, Denise, for whom she harbors some secret attraction, until one day they encounter a mysterious and seductive stranger who turns out to be the famous painter. At first he seems interested in having both girls together (artistically and sexually), but it is Victorine, the quiet one, who harbors great hunger (both artistic and sexual), who sleeps with him and then leaves her friend and her old life in order to become Manet's model, ultimately inspiring his Olympia. But Victorine, like any modern heroine, refuses to serve as mere object or even as mere inspiration. Instead, it is suggested that she's responsible for triggering the creative use of color that came to define the art of this period. Her voice is sometimes immature, but she's only 17, and her self-awareness and sexual awareness are both engaging and deep. Gibbon writes in a rather fragmented style, with short chapters that often end on a "poetic" statement. ("Whatever my body wants, I give her. Bitter things as well as sweet.") Sometimes this makes the novel feel a bit spacey, but the overall effect is lyrical and fits the shabbily gorgeous Parisian setting. There's a lot of sex, but it tends to be tasteful and concerned with equal pleasure, and it's more hinted at than described in detail. Fans of art history, Paris and contemporary Künstleroman like Girl With a Pearl Earring will enjoy the new perspective and the strong female voice.
Maureen Gibbon brings to life a Paris charged with erotic immediacy and honesty. The novel illuminates the transformative nature of art and is engrossing with sensual details. Amazing.
A rare treasure: a powerfully written novel with a sensual, fierce, intelligent heroine. Gibbon’s language is muscular and precise and gorgeous, and she evokes a Paris so viscerally real, I could taste the potato soup, smell the smoke and paint, and feel Victorine inhabiting her own skin as she discovers her powers. What an amazing book.
No one evokes the raw, confusing desire of young women with crappy jobs, threadbare clothes, and a lusty eye better than Maureen Gibbon does, and with
Paris Red she has distilled and bottled it: every sentence is fragrant with passion.
Maureen Gibbon’s Victorine is a fearless working girl with sharp wits and calloused hands who ‘wants and wants’ and follows that wanting right out of one life and into another. You will feel her losses and her triumphs as though they were your ownand the next time you look at Manet’s Olympia she will look right back at you.
Very few writers, living or dead, can convey the progress, pains, and pleasures of the sensual life as fully, vividly, and unapologetically as Maureen Gibbon.
You’ll be caught up in the rich and sensuous world that Gibbon’s weaves right from the beginning.
Jennifer Davis and Claire Stern - InStyle
An intense and erotic depiction, this novel explores the legacy of artist, muse, and masterpiece.