Genre: General Fiction/ Romantic elements
Author: Susan Vreeland
Publisher: Random House, Aug. 26, 2014
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Sexy Rating: behind closed doors
Description from Amazon.com:
In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.
Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.
With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.
It is always a special treat to pick up a book and learn about something new. For me it was all about mining and the preparation of ochre from the earth into pigments for painting. That lesson was wrapped up in the beautiful story of a young bride on the verge of WWII. The story tells of the hardships the French dealt with during the war, and especially those of this young woman, Lisette, living alone and struggling to get by. It also touches on the confiscation of paintings by the German’s. The heart of the story is the hiding of the paintings and Lisette’s pursuit of them.
I have been a fan of Susan Vreeland since reading her book, THE GIRL IN HYASENTH BLUE. Blue must be a favorite of Ms. Vreeland for she also makes Lisette’s desire a blue dress. This book is long, 433 pages, it could have been shorter but the length does submerge the reader in the environment of the village in Provence. The author is especially adept at creating visions of landscape and mood with her lovely prose.