Mademoiselle Victorine: A Novel Paperback – Jul 24 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Finerman's debut novel chronicles the life of Victorine Laurent, whose beauty and ambition to "conquer Paris" leads her to become the favorite muse of Edouard Manet. Victorine poses for a portrait that will "change the direction of art forever," and the sexually charged painting indeed shocks the Grand Salon and helps Victorine capture the attention of the duke de Lyon, an adviser to Emperor Louis-Napoléon. The duke requests that Victorine become his mistress exclusively, and when she agrees, she must balance her feelings for Manet with her relationship to the duke and her rising notoriety. Finerman's juxtaposition of actual and fictional events and characters is far from seamless, and Victorine is too perfect to be believable. More attention to character and less to wardrobe would have lent needed depth. (July)
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Mademoiselle Victorine plunges the reader into the volatile mix of art and political intrigue in 1860s Paris through the fascinating person of Victorine Laurent, whose rapid, determined rise from dancer to courtesan of kings exposes the lives and passions of her time. Mademoiselle Victorine rides the Parisian whirlwind, taking the reader so deep into the heart of that glittering and dangerous era that putting the book down will not be an option.
- Pamela Aidan, author of An Assembly Such As This
“As vivid, bold, and seductive as a Manet painting…brings to life the tinseled, tawdry art world of Second Empire Paris.
- Eleanor Herman, author of Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge
“Finerman cleverly weaves her touching story, populated with colorful, artistic characters, through a period in the political and artistic history of France that is rich with drama.”
¯Susanne Dunlap, author of Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As Manet's nude model for "Olympia", Victorine will make her fortune, the doors of society thrown open for her, but at the beginning of her quest for security, she is guided by pragmatism, self-interest and the obvious rewards offered by gentlemen of means. Manet and his disciples are the new face of Parisian art, upsetting the status quo with their vision; as the artist's protégé, Victorine attains cache, and with it, unexpected opportunity. At first, genteel society is shocked by Manet's depictions of his muse, but soon Victorine is the object of much speculation, including offers for patronage. Keeping her distance from Manet, Victorine refuses to be his lover, although she has no such qualms with those who would woo her, accepting finally a grand home from Baron Rothschild. Eventually, Victorine meets the one man who will refuse to tolerate her relationship as Manet's model; Philippe de Lyon, close advisor to Emperor Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon I and vice-president of the legislative body, Philippe demands exclusivity, nurturing grand schemes with Victorine as his unwitting pawn.
Her notoriety grows, as does Philippe's influence, Victorine introduced to court and seduced by men of great repute, basking in "ambition and rivalry, the blood sport of imperial Paris". Yet Victorine fails to find comfort in financial security or the glamour of her position, the court rife with intrigue and the whispers of war with Prussia. Drawn to Manet as butterfly to flame, Victorine cannot deny the attraction they have so skillfully avoided, each pursuing their goals as the country turns against the monarchy once again. By 1870, Paris is caught in the onslaught of Prussian might and superior arms. France, defeated, sues for peace. Betrayed and unjustly imprisoned, Victorine learns the harsh lessons of power and greed, surviving only by her wits and Manet's assistance.
Creating her heroine from a combination of historical characters during the era, Finerman recreates a believable Paris, displaying the beauty that so captured the imagination of Parisians, the elegant salons, the extravagance and decadence of the court of Louis Napoleon and his empress, Eugenie, wealthy men who parade their mistresses in society, the rising ire of the working class toward a ruling class that ignores their struggles and the enlightened artists and writers inspired to make their mark on the world stage. The real actors all but lost to history, Manet's gorgeous nude, "Olympia", survives, a gift to future generations. Luan Gaines/2007.
As she poses for this man, the painting becomes the talk of Paris and she becomes an almost overnight courtesan but that success almost destroys her. Victorine learns secrets from her past that will both bring a closure to some areas and unrest in others. As her life travels along, she herself becomes a mother and it is truly then as Paris is thrust into war that she realizes the war that raged in her heart for so many years must come to an end as she finds out what true love is and where her happiness lies. A very good story with some deep rooted hidden emotions that are gems to be found.
A great book for a great character and many great friends of Victorine : Manet, Baudelaire, etc.