By: Susan Vreeland
407 pages (Hardcover)
Dragged away from her beloved Paris and its many galleries and cafés, Lisette is forced to live in the rural town of Roussillon, with her husband as they take care of his ailing grandfather, who teaches her more about art than she ever could have imagined. She soon grows to love the town and its people just as much as she does Paris.
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There is art in every description in this story with a focus on color, contrast, and texture. I have read many a description in my time, in different genres of fiction, but this author’s perspective led every landscape and every detail to be described as one would a painting. It wasn’t what I expected, but it had a lovely effect.
The story focused on Pissarro, Cézanne, and Chagall, when it came to artists and their paintings. I have to admit, I’m not as familiar with art as I could be, and while I recognized the names of these famous artists, I couldn’t recall any of their paintings. I’ve mentioned before that I love it when a book teaches you something without you really noticing. Ultimately, I googled all three. After reading so much about their paintings I had to see them for myself. The artists mentioned in this novel are humanized so well, that they feel like actual people, rather than iconic names from history or a gallery wall. I especially loved the way the Chagalls were portrayed. It made me want to meet them.
The story takes place over about a decade from the 30s through World War II. Lisette takes quite a personal journey, and for the most part I liked her character. She was rather naïve and a little spoiled at first, but slowly and realistically grew as a person. I especially liked how this self-proclaimed city girl managed to take care of herself in the countryside and even learn to milk a goat.
There was a lot of name dropping of streets and cafés in Paris, which didn’t really do anything for me, since I don’t have an innate knowledge of the geography of the city. For some reason I’m not as enthralled by that city as many are. To be perfectly honest, I’d rather visit Tokyo, but I can see how those details would be of interest to someone with a love of Paris.
And now for a slight rant about a particular character…
I don’t like Bernard. Now, I will try to explain why without giving away any of the story. If a girl doesn’t want to be with you, she doesn’t want to be with you. Stop freaking her out and accept it. It isn’t that she doesn’t want you yet. Persistence is more often creepy than romantic. That being said, Lisette has to stop giving him opportunities and should have told people that he was bothering her. On more than one occasion she put herself in a very vulnerable position. While some information comes out later in the story that redeems him somewhat, I felt that his behavior was inexcusable. It wasn’t something that could be made up for so easily.
After all the characters go through in this story, it’s tied up nicely at the end, which I appreciated since novels of this genre often end quite bleakly. I liked the Roussillon characters, and the tales of the artists. I had never really thought about where the paint came from, how difficult rural life at that time was, or what it was like living through German occupation. I gained a little perspective from this book, and that is always a good thing. Until next time…