The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer – Book Review

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer
Published by Picador, an imprint of Macmillan

When art critic Daniel Lichtmann’s wife is found dead next to the equally lifeless body of an artist – one with whom Daniel had a somewhat antagonistic relationship, no less – it seems that Daniel’s life, too, is over. Depressed at the thought that Aleksandra, who was actually Daniel’s second wife, had had such an intimate affair with Benjamin Wind that she even died with him in a supposed suicide, Daniel is all but unable to function, and seems on the verge of losing his job. One might think that Daniel would at least be glad that Benjamin, the man who stole his wife, is dead or, if he is upset, that he might be upset at his inability to take his own revenge. Instead, Daniel almost mourns for the man as he does for his wife. It is lucky that he does so, though, because at Benjamin’s funeral Daniel meets a man claiming to be Benjamin’s grandfather. This man, Max, turns on its head everything that Daniel thought he knew about Benjamin and his relationship with Aleksandra by introducing Daniel to the secret past of Benjamin’s family.

To be completely honest, I was a bit concerned starting The Marriage Artist. Suicide, lust, and infidelity in the art world just didn’t seem like an appealing premise at the time I picked it up, but I also couldn’t put it off because the BOOK CLUB discussion was looming. What I found, though, was a haunting story of love, marriage, and the ever-present influence of the past. Daniel’s story is told in parallel with that of Josef Pick, a Viennese Jew whose story begins in the years before World War II, and who is famous for his creation of marriage contracts. Either of the stories might have been overwhelming on their own, for both are filled with longing and heartbreak, but the way they are woven together prevents either one from becoming overly depressing and builds anticipation for both stories.

The Marriage Artist is a masterful example of a dual time period narrative. The stories work together beautifully, each enhancing the other. In addition, Winer takes what could have been a depressing or unappealing story and set of characters, and works them together in such a way that they hold the reader’s interest with ease. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell – Book Review

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude Monet was an impetuous young man, determined not to spend his life in his father’s store. Originally a caricaturist, when Claude is challenged by a painter friend to try landscapes, he falls in love with painting and knows he has found his life’s work. Although Monet was convinced of his own talent and that of his friends, Parisian society failed to recognize them in the same way. The artists were always short of money and hounded by their debtors. In the midst of his attempt to make a living from his art, Claude met a beautiful young woman named Camille working in her uncle’s bookstore. Convincing Camille to model for him begins a great, loving, and often rocky relationship between the great painter and his muse.

Okay, I really enjoyed this book. I know it is sort of trendy for people who are serious about art to hate on the Impressionists these days, but I love them. Actually, Impressionist works are pretty much the only paintings I like to look at. However, apart from learning about pointilism in 4th grade (we learned about and tried our hand at many Impressionist styles, but pointilism is the only one I distinctly remember), I really knew almost nothing about the Impressionists, and particularly about how the movement began. In a day when one can buy Monet’s water lilies emblazoned on almost anything, it seems strange to think that he was not an immediate success in his art. In fact, though, the entire school of Impressionism failed to meet with success for quite some time.

I think Monet’s lack of initial success was the most interesting aspect of the book for me, because it so strongly informed his relationships. For instance, Claude loved Camille deeply, but his lack of ability to provide adequately for them put a strain on their marriage that was exacerbated by her bouts of depression and her childhood growing up very well off. The other major set of relationships in the book was between Monet and his Impressionist friends. I loved the tension between them supporting one another with their limited resources and their pain over their lack of success as young men.

“Claude and Camille” gives historical context to Impressionism, contains a (complicated) love story, and includes equally complicated and yet rich relationships between friends, what’s not to like? Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for a blog tour.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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