With Violets Paperback – Oct 2 2008
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“With deft brush strokes, Elizabeth Robards creates a wonderfully vivid portrait of the Second Empire and the dawn of Impressionism.” (Tracy Grant, author of Beneath a Silent Moon)
“Set among the beauty and majesty of Paris at the height of its articits period, Robards’ novel weaves the story of passion and lust among the historical events. A masterpiece in itself, With Violets is a delightful novel.” (Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas))
About the Author
Award-winning author Elizabeth Robards formerly lived in France and has studied art and writing. She earned a degree in journalism only to realize reporting "just the facts" bored her silly. Much more content to report to her muse, Elizabeth has found Nirvana doing what she loves most-writing contemporary and historical women's fiction full time. She loves to travel-and when she can't, her imagination transports her all over the world.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While Morisot was a woman ahead of her time, with artistic passion, and the spirit to join Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and others as part of the Impressionist movement, history hints that she & Manet may have been more than fellow artists. Manet painted no other subject as often as Morisot, who served as a model for fourteen Manet portraits.
WITH VIOLETS begins with an engaging encounter between the two at the Louvre, and quickly draws you into the complexities of their love affair in 19th century Paris. The story embraces so many family members and friends that you not only feel the passion between Edouard and Berthe, but also the emotions of those witness to the attempt to veil the deep love that they cannot deny each other.
Vibrant language paints a story of passionate love between a married man, and a woman who seems willing to chance everything to be with him. Was Edouard's wife truly the former mistress of his father, and his loveless marriage only for reasons of family honor? Can Berthe risk her place among fellow artists, and bring shame upon the family who has encouraged her to buck convention and be the artist that she was born to be? Add in the intricacies of family, war and the Impressionist movement, and every page is riveting.
So much history is weaved into the love story that I found myself wanting to know more about the artists, and now look at their paintings with questions about what the eyes of the model and the strokes of the artist are telling me. While WITH VIOLETS is beautifully written historical fiction, the romantic in me wants to believe that Elizabeth Robards may be sharing a love story that truly was.
Berthe is attracted to Edouard, but is horrified to learn her new admirer is married to pianist Suzanne. The budding female artist also meets Edouard's brother Eugene; soon the siblings compete for the affection of Berthe. Will she choose the single brother, the famous married brother, or neither brother?
WITH VIOLETS is an intriguing work of fiction that provides insight into an interesting late nineteenth century artist (Berthe that is) and her relationships with the Manet brothers. Berthe is the focus of the story line as she seems attracted to Edouard but ultimately marry Eugene. Did she love Edouard or was that hero worship? Genre fans will gain a taste for Left Bank Paris during the impressionist period as Elizabeth Robards paints a delightful portrait of an impressionist artist ahead of her times.
The book transports you to a very real depiction of Paris in the 1860s, introducing the reader to wonderful characters with complicated lives and loves, and inviting you to ponder fascinating mysteries of human relationships, history and art.
As evidence of how much I enjoyed the book, I found myself looking up the main character, Berthe Morisot, on the internet as soon as I finished reading. I found a painting by her of a woman in a white dress that matched the book's cover, and another painting, by Manet, of Morisot holding a bunch of violets. As I read the articles I felt like I was reading about real people who I'd already come to know through Robard's novel.
With Violets is written in the first person, giving it an immediacy that draws the reader quickly into the era. And Robards' language, right from the start, splashes the colors of impressionism onto the page. As Morisot becomes aware of Manet in the room behind her (on page 2), she describes "patterns of speech reverberating like a symphony of color... One timbre dark and rich as umber shadows. The other, vibrant as vermillion." It sounds completely natural in the context of a young woman with paintbrush in hand, and gives an immediate insight into the way the artist thinks and experiences the world.
Sometimes the switches in tense in the book startled me, but they soon became part of the flow -- a story told in vivid colors, unmixed, placed side by side like the paintings she describes. And just occasionally there were words or turns of phrase that seemed to miss the mark (but perhaps I'm too English). Touches of French, and French phrasing, are unobtrusively placed, and well-paced, giving background and flavor. And the world of Morisot and Manet is fleshed out beautifully with references to world events. I was fascinated to realize how little I had considered where the impressionists fitted into the timelines of revolution, war and politics.
At the end of the book, Avon gives a two-page "author insight," where Robards describes the awe and respect she holds for Morisot and Manet, which led her to sketch a love story of what might have been. I'd have to say, she's done a wonderful job, and I'll look forward to reading more by her. Meanwhile, if you're looking for more than your average romance, where relationships and the historical world are painted with breadth and depth, then I would certainly recommend you try "With Violets" by Elizabeth Robards.