Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Book 33: With Violets

With Violets by Elizabeth Robards

I was so incredibly disappointed with this book. I stumbled upon it at Barnes and Noble last week on one of their display tables, and ended up getting it because it was about the Impressionists, and more intriguingly, a woman artist. When I got home and googled Berthe Morisot, I discovered that she was actually the artist behind one of the paintings at the Chicago Art Institute that I'd always liked a lot. Naturally, that got me even more interested in reading a historical fiction novel based on her life.

Unfortunately, the book was just kind of boring. The back cover did say that it would be partially about Morisot's love affair with Manet (which may or may not have actually occurred), but I figured there would also be a lot about Morisot herself. While she was the narrator, most of the novel was about Manet and his paintings and their interactions and his thoughts, etc. She described more of Manet's paintings than her own! In fact, based on the novel, I got the impression she only painted about two important pieces during that whole period, and for the rest of the time either copied famous paintings at the Louvre, painted flowers for practice in her studio or posed for Manet. Since I don't know much about the artist (which is why this book was supposed to help enlighten me), I'm not sure if she painted most of her significant work after the affair, or if Robards just didn't think any of it was worth mentioning. Also, Morisot was in love with Manet for years despite his marriage to someone else, but I was never really convinced as to what was so special about Manet. His character was flat and didn't seem charming at all. If I wasn't going to learn much about Morisot, at least the love story could have been exciting and passionate, but it seemed like a failure even in that regard. I had no clue why these two people were interested in each other.

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