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The Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper Audio CD – Aug 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Audio Partners; Unabridged edition (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572702893
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572702899
  • Product Dimensions: 18.1 x 16.2 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 127 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Elegantly conceived and tenderly written, this cameo of a novel ushers readers into a small, warmly lit corner of art history. Inspired by five Mary Cassatt paintings of Cassatt's older sister, Lydia, Chessman (Ohio Angels) paints her own intimate portrait of the admirable Lydia, chronicling Lydia's thoughts and feelings as she models for Mary in Paris in the late 1870s and early 1880s. All the while, Lydia is conscious that she is dying of Bright's disease, and her thoughtful contemplation of her life and dashed hopes give shape to the tale. Lydia, who is in her 40s, never married the man she loved was killed in the Civil War but she reveals a sharp, sophisticated awareness of desire in her observations of her sister Mary (May), and May's lover, the painter Edgar Degas. Chessman sees May as vividly as she does Lydia, describing her as a live wire, a woman with outsize ambitions for her times, but also as a devoted sister. Chessman's prose can be obvious and overcareful "I think May's sadness, when she heard my diagnosis, was increased by her memory of earlier sorrows" but her instinctive understanding of the sisters' relationship and her thoughtful description of their studio collaborations elevate this understated effort. The five paintings, beautifully reproduced, appear at intervals and acquire new depth even as they enrich Chessman's story. 4-city author tour. (Nov. 1)Forecast: Published in an unusual joint venture by Seven Stories and the Permanent Press, this title the #1 BookSense pick for November/December is attracting much early attention. The small trim size and glossy art inserts make it an appealing gift book, and it's a safe bet that holiday sales will be strong. U.S. paperback rights to Plume; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Greece, Italy and Australia/New Zealand.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As you read Chessman's second novel (after Ohio Angels), be prepared for an insightful and moving tale about a great American painter and her family. Here is the poignant story of Lydia, Mary Cassatt's sister, who details the important role she played in the creation of Cassatt's early Impressionist paintings. Each chapter centers on a painting by Mary that involves Lydia, and the narrative offers wonderful insight into Cassatt's bold life and her relationships with artists such as Renoir, Caillebotte, and especially Degas. Though Lydia is fighting a horrible battle against Bright's disease, she continues to pose for her sister and to live her life with courage and dignity. As Degas observes to Lydia, "You show me how to live, if only I could do it as you do." A special treat is the inclusion of color plates of famed Cassatt works like "Lydia Crocheting in the Garden." Like Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring (LJ 10/15/99), this book beautifully limns the impact of art on a woman close to a great artist though the women involved are very different. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. Vicki Cecil, Hartford City P.L., IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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By A Customer on Feb. 3 2003
Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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