Readers who love to immerse themselves in the romance of bohemian times will find much to savor.
The Passion Dream Book is a thrilling achievement.
New York Times Book Review
Otto is a fiction writer whose work stands out as original.
Whitney Otto keeps the promise of her first novel...The Passion Dream Book incorporates actual figures and events in its fictionalized world...A rare pleasure.
Art is long and life is short, but life can gain depth and texture if one lives artfully, among arists. The dream of the title of Otto's evocative new novel, which tackles the theme of art and life, is the dream of two women in two different centuries to find passion in love and in their work. In the Italian Renaissance, young Giulietta dresses like a boy and conceals herself in the studio of the famous young artist she calls M., spying on his methods. The daughter of a respected but minor painter of birds, Giulietta, at 15, is a skilled painter who longs to be great like M., to live M.'s life. At the same time, she longs for M. himself. Just as the master and the "boy" are about to embrace, shattering Giulietta's deception, the narrative leaps forward to the 20th century. Giulietta's descendant, Romy March, daughter of a wealthy Italian-American financier, finds her own M. in Augustine Marks, a young African-American photographer whose work Romy emulates. As lovers, the two pass through California in the Hollywood silent film era, New York at the peak of the Harlem Renaissance, the bohemian artist scene of Left Bank Paris of the late 1920s and the San Francisco of the Beats. At first overshadowed by Augustine in her artistic life and by a seductively beautiful model in Augustine's affections, Romy comes into her own without sacrificing her sensitivity and intelligence. Otto (
How to Make an American Quilt) has created a beautifully written, marvelously resonant tale that entertains as it illuminates the sometimes conflicting loves of gifted women.
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
The author of the phenomenal
Your Erroneous Zones explains how you can use meditation to get what you want. Zen Buddhists, take note.
YA--This readable novel spans several centuries and continents, combining fictional characters with historical figures to create an overview of art, especially the role of the patron in its development. In Renaissance Florence, motherless Giulietta Marcel is trained by her father, but she can never become a recognized artist in this male-dominated period. Guilietta spies on Michaelangelo, loving him from afar and earning her livelihood by discovering his works, his habits, and his loves and passing this information on to others. One of her artistically designed boxes, meant to hold mementos, is passed down through the generations until a 20th-century descendant, Romy March, becomes its owner. This treasured possession connects her to Giulietta's passion for art and love. During the early 1900s, Romy has more freedom but still must struggle against America's negative view of art as a feminine career and society's aversion to her love for Augustine, an African American. The couple flees first to Harlem and then to Paris in their search for liberation. Romy finally settles in San Francisco in the 1950s, having come to accept herself. This story is much more than a romance. There is much information about art, especially American art during the early 20th century. YAs will gain insight into this world, its history, and the role of passion in creating gifted artists.--Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Now You See Her, 1994, etc.) follows a pair of lovers as they migrate through several of the 20th-century's most exotic artistic movements.
First, though, there's a prelude in Renaissance Florence: 13- year-old Guilietta Marcel dresses like a boy and is hired to spy on Michelangelo while he's sculpting David. Guilietta is the daughter of a gentle, eccentric artist who's training her to paint; the girl lusts after Michelangelo at the same time as her own artistic vision is developing. Cut to Los Angeles, 1918. Romy March (a descendent of Guilietta's) exchanges gibes with Augustine, a young black man at work with a camera in a public park. Romy's father is skeptical of her inchoate plan to devote her life to some unspecified art. Although only a couple of years older, Augustine already has a gig: He prints tiny photographic images on trendsetters' skin. Romy secures a gofer job at a movie studio, where she again encounters Augustine: The racial mores of the time dictate that the two fall for each other only in private. The lovers take the train east and open a photography studio in Harlem. Augustine is much sought after, doing portraits of many of the greats of the Harlem Renaissance, while Romy's work languishes. And then an ex-lover of Augustine's shows up, his interest is rekindled, and Romy departs for Paris. She becomes Man Ray's assistant-mistress and parties with the art crowduntil Augustine appears. In spite of their grand passion, she keeps moving, swooping in on Bloomsbury-era London and hitting her stride as a photographer before heading to San Francisco, where the couple settle down just as the Beat scene is born. Otto packs in catchy details about art and photography, and lots of stylish parties and clever flirting.
Despite the splashy backdrops, though, the central love story is flat and unengaging. Better as a grand tour than as a celebration of art and love.