Friday, January 29, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway: L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom

Lilianne Milgrom

on Tour January 18-29 with L'Origine  

L’Origine: The Secret Life Of The World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece

(historical fiction) Release date: July 28, 2020 at Little French Girl Press 255 pages

2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award

I've always been a fan of novels that dig into the history of artwork, ever since Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland in 2007. I know that the stories behind the artwork are mostly fabricated, but I just love the idea of peeking behind the scenes. 

I had another chance to pull back the curtains of the art world in the novel L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom. The novel explores the life of the painting L'Origine du Monde by French artist Gustave Courbet. Not familiar with the painting? Neither was I, but don't look it up. Wait until after you've read the book. 

Milgrom is also an artist, and the novel begins as a biography. She travels to Paris and asks permission to paint or "copy" L'Origine du Monde in the Musee d'Orsay. The title L'Origine du Monde means the beginning of the world or the start of the world, and it is known as an early erotic painting of a woman's torso and vagina. I really enjoyed joining Milgrom as she painted in Paris each day, responding to museum goers and their curiosity. 

I didn't realize the book was then switching to fiction as it jumped back to the 1800s and followed the artist Courbet's life. After the painting left Courbet, the reader continues to follow it as it switched hands in back deals, never actually seeing the light of day until the late 1900s. The author did a good job creating these historic scenes and characters as she kept the painting at the center of the world events; through World Wars and fallen governments, the hidden painting continued to exist in secret. This book was a smart read with good continuity and writing that kept me hooked. It definitely made me curious about the painting and I'll make a beeline to see it next time I'm in Paris. 

I received a copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

(Spoiler alert: about the painting) From the pictures I've seen online, I'm not a great fan of the painting. Courbet was a realist painter, but perhaps this painting would have benefitted from a bit of impressionism. The vagina doesn't bother me, it's the rest of the painting. It looks a bit grotesque because of the lack of arms and head. The breasts seem stretched and misshapen because of the twisted torso. In the novel, Milgrom writes that Simone de Beauvoir said the painting depicted women the way men liked them, no head (brain) just breasts and vagina. I can see her point. I'm also puzzled that men looked at this painting erotically. It doesn't seem sexy to me.


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*** See the book on Goodreads


L’Origine‘ traces the extraordinary, clandestine odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that shook up the author’s world and continues to scandalize all who set eyes upon it. Gustave Courbet’s portrait of a woman’s exposed torso and sex – audaciously entitled ‘L’Origine du monde’ (The Origin of the World) – was so shocking it was kept hidden for a century and a half, surviving revolution, Nazi plunder and the foibles of its eccentric owners. Today it draws millions of visitors to Paris’ Orsay Museum. Lilianne Milgrom brings a fresh, feminine perspective to an iconic work of art created specifically for the male gaze. ‘L’Origine‘ offers readers more than a riveting romp through history–it also reflects society’s complex attitude towards female nudity.
NB: this is a historical novel, no explicit scenes
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L'Origine - Lilianne MilgromLilianne Milgrom Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an award-winning international artist, writer on the arts and author. Her art can be found in both private and institutional collections around the world and her articles have been published in Huffington Post, Daily Art Magazine, Ceramics Now and Bonjour Paris. Her 5-star, bestselling novel ‘L’Origine‘ is the result of ten years of research and was accepted into the Historical Novel Society. Lilianne lives in Washington DC with her husband. Follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Join her mailing list
You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blog participating in this tour. Visit/Follow the participating blogs on Facebook/Twitter, as listed in the entry form below, and win more entry points!


Tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open to all 5 winners will receive an ecopy of this book



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Lilianne Milgrom said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and positive review. Finding out the story behind something - or someone, for that matter - is always an eye-opener as it was for me with this painting. I just HAD to get the story out there! You just couldn't make this stuff up :) Have a wonderful day.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Thanks Paulita for this great review. Really Le Musée d'Orsay should give money to Lilianne and to France Book Tours: so many reviewers mention they want to go there next time they are in Paris, lol! Emma at FBT

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