by Anne Girard
Release Date: August 26th 2014
2014 Harlequin MIRA
Ebook Edition; 432 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
4.5 / 5 Stars
When Eva Gouel moves to
Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of
stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a
costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first
catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.
brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva
can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid
affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of
Madame Picasso is a very intriguing novel that takes the reader back into pre-WW1 Paris when Pablo Picasso was beginning to take the world by storm and delves into his character and his personal life. Although I love art and have been fortunate enough to visit the Musee Picasso in Paris as well as the Centre Pompidou and Le Louvre, I didn't really know a lot about his personal life so I found this book quite absorbing and quite fascinating. To be honest though, I don't know if I was more intrigued by the amazing amount of famous figures of which Picasso was acquainted or with the man himself.
Upon reading a bit more about Picasso, I thought Ms. Girard captured the essence of his personality quite well; he was known to be quite self-absorbed, selfish, manic, frenzied, and arrogant. Yet at the same time, there was a fragility to the man that showed through the pages, one that constantly questioned his ability, questioned who he was, questioned what he was doing. As a foreigner, he never quite fit in Paris and felt quite distrustful of the political system and the police. He constantly felt judged for his foreign thoughts and ideas, yet this is what made him so different and so amazing. Critized for his Cubist ideas, he is now known to be the co-founder of the Cubist movement during the time period in which this book is set and I found the discussions surrounding the concept quite interesting. Anything new would have been looked upon with skepticism, and pre-WW1 was such an interesting time period in Paris. I did find it interesting that his political views, other than his deep distrust of the police, were not really mentioned in this novel.
Eva is a character in whom I could identify quite readily. Brought up in a rather strict household, her parents goal for her was to marry well and have children; Eva however wanted to spread her wings and explore a world that she thought quite fascinating and she and her parents disagreed over her dreams and her fantasies. With the old world and new world colliding, I found this to be quite fascinating as I've always really enjoyed hearing the stories about women who really pushed the boundaries during this time period. These are the women we have to thank for the freedoms we have today, but the ordeals and the timeless traditions that had to be broken just astound me. Eva however, is a rather strong personality despite her diminutive size and naivete and she finds herself in the midst of exciting times by working at Le Moulin Rouge. I really liked how she had doubts about Picasso and his womanizing and really tried to keep him at fingers' length, not an easy task to do. She didn't have blinders on when it came to him and I thought she dealt with his the best way she knew how. I wonder how their relationship would have stood the test of time? I also thought it was quite interesting that Picasso never painted her like he painted his other 'muses'; did he feel something really different for Eva, was he protecting her from a rather unforgiving Paris, or was it something else?
Madame Picasso is a wonderful novel about the turbulent times of Belle Epoque Paris, a time period that was coming to an end. With a cast of characters literally stepping out of the history books, we are swept into Picasso's world of art that was quite amazing. I thought Ms. Girard's research was quite meticulous and I could imagine myself waltzing through salons and having discussions with Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Matisse, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, and so son. It was quite apparent that Picasso was enamored of Eva and you can sense this throughout the novel. I thought the novel was beautifully written, the descriptions were very well done, and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.