Review: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

Impressionism is my favorite type of artwork. Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Edouard Manet are well-known artists of this art movement.
For a definition of Impressionism:
Why do I love this type of art? It provokes emotion in me. It arouses "all" my sensory. I want to visually see it, touch, smell, taste it. I guess this sounds strange?

I came across this small book in the local library, I had to read it as apart of my September in Paris Reading Challenge.
The book centers around the time that Lydia Cassatt was painted five times by her younger sister Mary Cassatt. Lydia is ill with Bright's disease, a kidney disease. Lydia---known in the book as Lyd, and her sister Mary---known as May, live with their parents in an apartment in Paris, France. The time period is 1878 to 1881. During the course of the book Lyd looks back on her life in America, her family, her youth, various young men she knew. She thinks about her family and how they feel about her illness, this weighs heavy on her. They're friends with Edgar Degas and he is often in the story. In addition they're friends with Berthe Morisot, and May Alcott the sister of Louisa May Alcott. In my opinion the book is foremost the story of two sisters who love each other dearly and are extremely close. Secondly the book is about art and the artist Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia who posed for her. May is the artist, yet Lyd has an eye for composition and colors and arrangement. She has a quiet reflective personality. Most of the dialogue in the book is in her own silently wrapped stoic mind.
Positive Points
  • Moving portrayal of two sisters who have a strong bond. They depend on each others opinion, companionship, advice, love, and strength.
  • Gave me the ability to see the world of Mary Cassatt.
  • Gave me the ability to see the world of an artist in Paris in the 1800's. 
  • I have more knowledge about what went into the making of a painting, and understanding a bit more about Impressionism. 
  • Several of the men Lyd had known in her past had fought in the American Civil War. Through Lyd's remembrance I was given a glimpse of lives that were no more, yet their memory haunted Lyd, and she wondered how her life would have been different if one special man had survived.
  • The little quaint normal mannerisms of humans that we usually don't notice. The author made a point of adding these things to her book in order for the characters to come to life on page.
  • Edgar Degas personality is a bit temperamental, which I'd not known. I'm aware this book is a work of fiction, yet it gave me a peek into his life. 
  • Symbolism is used in the book reflecting not only Impressionism, but Lyd's illness. 
Negative Points:
  • The book was not long enough. I would have liked to read more. I would also like to have read the rest of Mary Cassatt's life.  
My favorite quotes:
"If the illness lifts, even for a few days, and one can enter the world again, all things shine with clarity and value." page 73
"I see now that May's painting creates a kind of memory. Whether or not anyone ever knew me, she will offer a memory of me, for the world to claim. And I see something else: she pictures me as a woman who has had her wishes fulfilled." Page 157. 

Published by Seven Stories 2001
192 pages
Fiction/Based on the lives of Lydia (1837-1882) and Mary (1844-1926) Cassatt/Paris/France/Impressionism/19th Century/September in Paris Reading Challenge 2012

Link @ publisher:

Link @ Barnes and Nobles:
Hardcover $24.00
Nook $13.20

This is book 4 for my September in Paris Reading Challenge 2012.


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