Posts tagged with "Historical Fiction"
There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine ("Heroines did what they wanted") . . . her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas.
There is the flight itself -- day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day ("Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it").
And there is, miraculously, an island ("We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke"). And, most important, there is Noonan . . .
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.
Historical fiction that reads like a romance novel (a good one) with a bit of suspense thrown in. Everyone has an image of Edgar Allan Poe from his work and from the stories of his poverty, alcoholism and instability. But not everyone knows that much of his negative image was constructed by a literary rival, Rufus Griswold, in a posthumous biography.
In Cullen's well-researched novel she shows us a softer side of Poe. Cullen built a story around the rumour of Poe's affair with poet, Frances Osgood. Their forbidden love-match makes their lives a roller coaster ride of exultation and torture. They risk ostracism from the oppressive nineteenth century New York society to be together. I had a hard time picturing him being called "Eddie" by his wife and mother-in-law, but as the book progresses, the character becomes quite believable. Throughout the tense, forbidden romance there are plenty of factual tidbits from the lives of Poe, Frances Osgood and others of New York intellectual society.
This is a great read for fans of historical fiction, poetry, and literary romances.