Book Review

‘I Always Loved You’ by Robin Oliveira

ro ialySTORY: A novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas’s great romance from the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter.

The young Mary Cassatt never thought moving to Paris after the Civil War to be an artist was going to be easy, but when, after a decade of work, her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary’s fierce determination wavers. Her father is begging her to return to Philadelphia to find a husband before it is too late, her sister Lydia is falling mysteriously ill, and worse, Mary is beginning to doubt herself. Then one evening a friend introduces her to Edgar Degas and her life changes forever. Years later she will learn that he had begged for the introduction, but in that moment their meeting seems a miracle. So begins the defining period of her life and the most tempestuous of relationships.

In I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira brilliantly re-creates the irresistible world of Belle Époque Paris, writing with grace and uncommon insight into the passion and foibles of the human heart.

REVIEW: This book chronicles the era of the Impressionist artists in Paris with emphasis on the muddled relationship between American Impressionist, Mary Cassatt and French Impressionist, Edgar Degas.  During the Belle Époque time period in France, many people were becoming more aware and attuned to cultural and artistic refinement.  The Impressionists offered a different type of art that caused a stir among the art world.

After several years of painting and displaying her art in Paris, Mary meets Edgar who takes her to a soiree where she is introduced to the close clique of other French Impressionists.  They are a tight group all suffering in their own way with their fears as to whether their art is really good enough to be accepted in the art world.  Many of these artists were truly poor and some were borrowing money from friends to keep their work going.

Mary’s family finally gives up trying to get her to return to the U.S. and, instead, they move to an apartment in Paris.  While not rich, they are financially comfortable which enables Mary to keep her studio for painting.  We get to know her parents and her sister who has always been unwell.

The story takes us to the outskirts of Paris and into other areas of France and into the lives of other artists.  We learn about them, their art, fears, temperaments, families and secrets.  The author takes the reader everywhere with detailed such descriptions that you feel like you are there.

I loved this book so much and it is one that will stay with me for a long time to come.  Since I lived in Paris and the Impressionists are my favorite artists, it was like going home again.  I enjoyed reading about the creation of certain pieces of art as described in the book and which now live in museums.  Whether or not you are an art lover like me, I can assure you that you will be enthralled at the relationships and descriptions of the this most magnificent time in France. 

*Connie for b2b.

*Book provided by my local library. 

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