It was the summer of 1880 in Paris, 10 years after France's crippling defeat in the Prussian war. Even though France was finally recovering from a serious economic depression, the devastating psychological effect of the war could still be felt. Parisian energy rebounded, however, when workers were given Sundays off. A new society emerged - la vie moderne - and cafes, caberets, dance halls, and theaters all flourished. The building of railroad lines to the countryside allowed Parisians to enjoy their Sundays in the enchanting riverside villages west of Paris.
A small group of artists, called Impressionists, had discovered the new engergy and modern individualism as well. Breaking away from the classic artistic traditions of form and line, with scenes from the Bible or history as inspiration, the Impressionists left their studios to paint "La vie moderne" as they saw it and lived it. Boldly using feathery touches of unblended color in textural brushstrokes, they painted scenes from the caberets, dance halls, theaters and Sunday boaters and picnicers. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one such painter. The Impressionists met with much criticism, since their technique was such a radical break with the classic artists. One such critic threw down the gauntlet by saying "the Impressionists are inferior to what they undertake. The man of genius has not arisen." August Renoir picked up the gauntlet and created a work of true genius - "Luncheon of the Boating Party."
Susan Vreeland, the author, has given the reader a wonderful fictional accounting of the creation of this masterpiece by Renoir. Renoir met with almost insurmountable obstacles. He had only eight weeks of Sundays to paint it on the terrace of La Maison Fournaise at Chatou before he would lose the good summer light. He was totally broke but somehow had to pay for the huge canvas, paints, fees for 14 models and rent for the terrace each Sunday. When he began working on the painting his right arm was broken, so he painted with his left. Crippling rheumatoid arthritis was beginning to take its toll on his fingers. Woven throughout the book are the personal stories of the 14 people who are in the painting. Their colorful stories paint their own picture of la vie moderne in Paris - an actress, a mime, a journalist, an adventurer, a singer-flower seller, an art collector, a poet, a boatman, a baron, a yachtsman-painter. Vreeland gives us a good taste of the conflicts and hedonism of the era, as well as the anguish and the joy, without which the Impressionists would have had no inspiration.
Matt King's wife is in a coma from a boating accident. Suddenly, he is the one responsible for their daughters, one ten, the other eighteen. Raising the daughters has been mainly the job of his wife. As he begins to learn about his daughters lives, something that he has only been invloved in tangentially, he learns that his wife's coma is irreversible.
Matt also is coping with the biggest business deal of his life. He is a descendant of Princess Kekipi of Hawaii and a missionary turned business man. And through that descendance, he and his cousins, have become major landholders. The cousins want to sell most of the land to the highest bidder. Matt is thinking that he would like a local businessman to win the deal so that the land would not be run by some major offsite corporation. Since Matt is the highest shareholder of all the cousins, he can make or break the deal.
Before she was in the boating accident that put her in the coma, Matt's wife, Joanie, rarely was involved in Matt's business plans. Usually, she just ignored it. So it seemed unlike her to want Matt to commit to a particular bidder for the land. Matt thought her involvement might be because the results would affect their daughters. That is until he learned that his wife was having an affair and how the deal would affect all of them.
This is a wonderfully written novel with some very funny and poignant moments. Matt King is a likable if removed Father who now knows he needs to step up his game. He loves his wife and his daughters and wants what is best for all of them. This is a quiet story with great sadness underneath that comes out in their lives, but there is also great hope for Matt and his family.
The Descendants has been made into a movie starring George Clooney. It is currently in limited release in Chicago with a wider release expected in December. Knowing that George Clooney is playing the father will not harm the reading of the book. I can only hope that the movie is as wonderful as this book.
Women, who had been brought up in houses with servants, were finding themselves having to pick fruit in the hot California sun. For many, their prospective husbands lied to them and sent pictures of other, more wealthy Japanese men, to represent themselves. The women have no money to leave, having given the money to their families still in Japan.
The time period is the early twentieth century until the middle of the second World War when most of the Japanese in California had to to go to the Internment Camps. Then the chapter changes to the voices of the white women left behind who notice their absence and wonder where they have gone.
In this slim novel is a wealth of experience, with much to be learned about the women who came over with such hopes for a new and wonderful life. How they had to survive and endure is the beauty of the story.
Ben's homicide instincts kick in and he begins to work behind the scenes when he finds the Homicide Detectives unwilling to listen to his ideas. The bodies start to pile up in this mystery and all the mayor cares about is that it doesn't affect the tourists. Is everyone on the take?
The action moves pretty fast in this dark mystery of secrets and lies. Hopefully we will get to see more of Officer Ben Decovic.