Customer Reviews


18 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5.0 out of 5 stars Artists and Sisters
This is an extraordinarily moving and beautifully written novel. Chessman takes the reader somewhere new: to the inner life of a famous painter and her dying sister. We see Paris in the 1880s; we meet Degas and the Mary Cassatt; we relive the sudio sessions in which Lydia Cassatt sat as a model for her sister Mary. And beyond all that, we come to confront our own...
Published on Feb. 3 2003

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven fiction posing as fact
There is much that is admirable about the novella LYDIA CASSATT READING THE MORNING PAPER, and there is just as much that is annoying. Inescapably, this fictionalized biography of a valiant woman succumbing to a fatal illness has a subtext of pathos. Thus, hardly surprisingly, the story never quite is able to get past its own grim underlying reality.
At the same...
Published on April 11 2003 by HeyJudy


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Novel About Two Loving Sisters and Art..., Dec 29 2009
By 
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
The cover of this book was originally what caught my eye, since I had purchased a Mary Cassatt calendar at one time and found her paintings to be very personal and familial. This novel is beautifully written, the author mentions in the beginning of the book that although she researched the subjects, this is definitely the author's interpretation of how life may have been between the two sisters, and life in France at that time. I enjoyed it very much - especially the eternal bond that the sisters share...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A charming read, Jan. 15 2004
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
This was an interesting book. I found it interesting to see the story through the eyes of Lydia Cassatt. It held my interest but what caught my attention the most were the areas revolving around Mary "May" Cassatt and Edgar Degas. The author made it feel as though the two were lovers or close to it.
And the fact the Cassatt and Degas are my two favorite Impressionist adds to the enjoyment of the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and simple, July 26 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
Just a sweet and simple book about sisterly love and having to face one's own mortality. Lots of metaphoric prose and colorful descriptions. A small insight into the world of art and artists. Subtly presented, yet deep in meaning and insightfulness. Can easily be read in a couple of hours.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven fiction posing as fact, April 11 2003
By 
HeyJudy "heyjudy" (East Hampton, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
There is much that is admirable about the novella LYDIA CASSATT READING THE MORNING PAPER, and there is just as much that is annoying. Inescapably, this fictionalized biography of a valiant woman succumbing to a fatal illness has a subtext of pathos. Thus, hardly surprisingly, the story never quite is able to get past its own grim underlying reality.
At the same time, though author Harriet Scott Chessman is a wonderful writer, the book is so short that it seems as if she is cheating her readers. There have been several works of fiction in the recent past offering possible background accounts of famous artists, or their subjects, or of the periods during which their most famous works were created. The two similar books about Vermeer, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE and GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING, each are more fully formed than Lydia Cassatt's report is here. Maybe it is fair to say that this idea of writing a fiction around a well-regarded painting is an idea which has been worked, and worked successfully--and that it is past time for other authors to move along to new forms of inspiration.
It is jarring to read thoughts being put into the mind of Lydia Cassatt when the author has no way of knowing what Lydia might have been thinking. This device completely breaks the natural flow of the story. Of course, this always is a risk when any author writes a fictionalized account of an episode in a real person's life.
The detail of life in Paris, specifically the lives of rich expatriate Americans in that moment of Henry James and Edith Wharton, are vivid and fascinating. The exploration of the movement of Impressionist art at the very time when it still was being formed by artists then considered iconoclasts is the highlight of the book.
Physically, it is not overstating to say that LYDIA CASSATT READING THE MORNING PAPER is a beautiful little gem of a novella, illustrated as it is with small reproductions of the paintings at issue.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Artists and Sisters, Feb. 3 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
This is an extraordinarily moving and beautifully written novel. Chessman takes the reader somewhere new: to the inner life of a famous painter and her dying sister. We see Paris in the 1880s; we meet Degas and the Mary Cassatt; we relive the sudio sessions in which Lydia Cassatt sat as a model for her sister Mary. And beyond all that, we come to confront our own mortality as Lydia poses bravely for her sister, living on in paintings that capture the delicate ties between sisters, between women, among artists and their models. This is a book about life and death, art and love, beauty and transcience. I could not put it down once I started reading it, and I can't stop thinking about it now that I have finished. I recommend it to all.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisitely Graceful Novel, Dec 7 2002
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel (Paperback)
Harriett Scott Chessman's prose moves with the deceptive beauty of a ballet dancer, its weightless grace diverting attention from the muscularity powering every gesture. Nothing is squandered, as this wisp-thin novel offers up more sharp-eyed observation and insight than books five times its girth.
Consider the narrator's description of Edgar Degas, whom she likens to a dog. "He bit into subjects --- the foolishness of one artist or another, the insipidity of someone's latest effort, I can't remember --- all the while his eyes lit on things in our apartment, with an air of studying and maybe breaking them: the tea set, the Japanese vase on the mantel, me."
LYDIA CASSATT READING THE MORNING PAPER is a fictionalized story based on the relationship between the American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia, who narrates the story. The novel revolves around sessions in which Lydia poses for her sister. Lydia, 41, is dying of Bright's disease. On a good day, sitting and holding a newspaper while Mary paints her is physically exhausting. On a bad day, getting out of bed would be an impossible trick.
Mary, seven years her junior, is on the cusp of realizing her creative ambitions, having been accepted as the only woman in the inner circle of late 19th Century impressionists who were stirring up Paris and the art world.
These sisters savor their time together because they deeply love each other and they know they'll soon be parted. Much goes unspoken. The younger sister avoids acknowledging that Lydia has little time left and the older woman doesn't force the conversation. They communicate through the work. "I was sick again this morning, and May (Lydia refers to her sister by this nickname throughout) looked discouraged as she helped me wash my face and get dressed. I wonder whether this will be May's last picture of me. I think May wonders this too, because there's a new quietness between us. She's intensely focused on her work, and she paints for a long time without a pause."
The third and only other significant character in the book is Degas. In real life, Degas was Lydia's close friend and mentor. They may or may not have been lovers. In Chessman's novel, there is a romance, though it is only glimpsed through Lydia's observations. "He touched the nape of May's neck. He caressed her for a moment and she leaned into him." Such passages poignantly capture Mary's combination of tender joy for her sister, curiosity and yearning for a type of love that she knows is only in her past. The descriptions of Degas are among the best parts of this luminous book. Lydia knows well the famous painter's reputation for cruelty but experiences only kindness and respect from him. She regards him with affection, but is never completely at ease. "...this sensation of being protected from the Cyclops by the Cyclops itself, while he eats everyone else in sight --- well, it's fragile at best," Lydia says.
The novel holds no suspense in its plot --- the reader knows the ending from the first page --- but it manages to continually surprise with its startlingly lovely language. There is little in the way of action --- a paintbrush flutters across a canvass, cider spills in the grass. The novel takes on big themes --- the love between sisters, artistic passion, even mortality --- but it does so one tiny, exquisite detail at a time.
--- Reviewed by Karen Jenkins Holt
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical Tale of Sisterly Love, Sept. 11 2002
By 
E. Rothstein "erothstein" (STUDIO CITY, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was a huge fan of Tracy Chevalier's "Girl with a Pearl Earring", so I was most interested to read Harriet Chessman's novel about Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia - the inspiration for many of her impressionist paintings. Chessman's style is elegant, and spare, and she limns a portrait as lovingly as Cassatt painted Lydia. If I have any criticism, it's that I wished the novel had a broader scope - it covers a very brief period when Cassatt and her family lived in Paris. I wanted to know more about the family before they came to Europe, and how at that time in history a woman was able to rise to such prominence in the epicenter of the birth of modern art. Chessman is an accomplished writer, and yet the book is not as deeply felt as it could be, perhaps because of its brevity. Still, it is a tale well worth the telling, and a pleasure to read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Reading this beautiful volume: akin to visiting a museum...., July 23 2002
By 
Dagmarelga "dagmar@gibralter.net" (Jacksonville, North Carolina United States) - See all my reviews
This very short novella about the famed impressionist Mary Cassatt, is narrated from the uniquely interesting perspective of her unknown and tragically short lived sister who was afflicted by an illness incurable in those days. Five of Mary's paintings which portray Lydia are chosen and very nicely reproduced in this small neatly compact volume. Each becomes the focus of a chapter. There is no real plot or action or suspense. Instead, reading each of these five introspective chapters mimics the act of really contemplating a work of art. The art lover will particularly enjoy and learn from Chessman's descriptions of the paintings and the way she relates them to Lydia's illness. Overall the amount of biographical information revealed about the Cassatts is relatively small. For example we learn Mary would outlive Lydia and go on to paint for 30 more years-but not that she would suffer the tragedy of blindness in her later years. The book will leave the reader eager to know more and to view Mary's work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Only if you like Cassatt, June 5 2002
By 
Amazon Customer (Pasadena, CA USA) - See all my reviews
If you aren't one of the many who adore Mary Cassatt's paintings, this book won't interest you at all. If it did not include lovely reproductions of five Lydia paintings, and if it were entirely fictional-not based on carefully research about the Cassatts, their friends, and the setting, it would not be much of a read. I found myself looking at the prints repeatedly; Chessman elucidates the paintings in ways that empower both Cassatt's artistry and the relationship between the sisters that the author develops. It is a slight book in length, and often reads like a creative writing exercise (research a historical figure and write a story in the first person based on your findings), but there are moving, human glimpses of a moment or two in time, and if the book leads more people to examine Cassatt with deeper appreciation of her art, then it has served its purpose.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, well-written story based on actual paintings, April 7 2002
By 
This novel is a recent example of the trend in using an artist's life or body of works to create work of fiction. Thanks to the author's imagination, talent and historical research, I was able to far better appreciate the paintings reading the book than I was in my art history classes 20 years ago.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xbfe2300c)

This product

Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel
Lydia Cassatt Reading The Morning Paper A Novel by Harriet Chessman (Paperback - Oct. 29 2002)
Used & New from: CDN$ 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews