Exploring art and novels seems to go together, but this one goes a step further by exploring the afterlife of an artist. Everyone has heard of Modigliani, but how many know about his muse, an artist herself, Jeanne Hébuteme?
This novel explored a subject that I didn't know a lot about. I'd heard of Modigliani and recognized some of his iconic paintings, but I knew nothing about his tragic life or that of his common-law wife Jeanne Hébuteme, who died a few days after Modigliani when she threw herself from a window while nine-months pregnant. I barely these tragic figures in the novel before we were thrust into a bleak afterlife as Jeanne searched to be reunited with Modigliani, only to learn that he wasn't in the grayness of the dead in Paris, a place where the rich continued to look down on the poor, kicking them out of first class on ghost trains, and white men continued in their power, judging the lives of everyone in a ghost trial. I was super depressed thinking this world, not heaven, not hell, might be the fate of those who have died. Luckily, just before I threw the book aside in despair, we moved on to explore how the life and history of both Modigliani and Hébuteme continued, including artist notebooks and a long-missing painting.
I'm always intrigued by missing paintings from World War II, as evidenced by my book The Summer of France. Love a story that supposes what might have happened to the pilfered artwork.
In the end, this book definitely captured me, creating a world I couldn't have imagined for myself.
Amedeo Modigliani, embittered and unrecognized genius, dies of meningitis on a cold January day in Montparnasse in 1920.
Jeanne Hébuterne, his young wife and muse, follows 48 hours later, falling backwards through a window.
Now a ghost, Jeanne drifts about the studio she shared with Modigliani—for she was not only his favorite model, but also an artist whose works were later shut away from public view after her demise. Enraged, she watches as her belongings are removed from the studio and her identity as an artist seemingly effaced for posterity, carried off in a suitcase by her brother. She then sets off to rejoin Modigliani in the underworld.
Thus begins Loving Modigliani, retelling the story of Jeanne Hébuterne’s fate as a woman and an artist through three timelines and three precious objects stolen from the studio: a notebook, a bangle, and a self-portrait of Jeanne depicted together with Modi and their daughter. Decades later, a young art history student will discover Jeanne’s diary and rescue her artwork from oblivion, after a search leading from Paris to Nice, Rome, and Venice, where Jeanne’s own quest will find its joyful reward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Lappin has published four novels:
The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004);
Katherine’s Wish, dealing with the life of Katherine Mansfield (Wordcraft, 2008),
shortlisted for Foreward Book of the Year
and iPPY gold medal winner in historical fiction;
Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery, winner of the Daphne DuMaurier Award
from RWA for the best mystery novel of 2013;
and Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne.
She is also the author of The Soul of Place: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci,
winner in 2015 of the gold medal in creativity in the Nautilus Book Awards.
She lives in Rome.
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Thanks for your review, I can see how the story grabbed you, in ways you were not expecting, sounds like. Emma at FBT
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