Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
This poignant little novel centered around Mary Cassatt’s life in 1880’s Paris covers much of the same ground as another book I read recently--I always Loved You by Robin Oliveira, a work of fiction which speculates about Cassatt’s relationship with Edgar Degas. Degas, the Cassatt family, and the Paris art scene are brought back to life in this book too, but here the story is told from the point of view of Mary’s beloved but terminally ill sister Lydia, who served as a model in some of Cassatt’s most beautiful paintings. Each of the five chapters uses one of the paintings Mary did of Lydia as its jumping off point, and (thank you publisher!) lovely color plates of the paintings are interspersed in the text.
As a narrator Lydia has wit, longings, and a probing intellect, but because of her illness she leads a circumscribed life very unlike her ambitious younger sister. She muses about the artistic process and her role in it, she’s fascinated by and drawn to Mary’s interpretations of her modeling poses, and when strong enough she takes readers with her around the sunny streets of Paris to rub elbows with the likes of Degas, Renoir, and Caillebotte. While Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper is a short novel it’s not slight. Ambitious themes are explored, including life, death, family love, driving passion, the place of art, and the possibility of immortality.