A potpourri of references to American, Japanese, and French culture merge in a storyline that navigates the life of Monet and Oscar. Japanese wood blocking, landscaping, gardening, Impressionist art to Monet’s illustrious life as a painter, Joe Byrd has written an enchanting historical fiction. The author’s passion for the subject and meticulous research of 30 years gleam through engrossing narration.
The reader must sit back and relish the charms of the cobbled roads along the Seinne, Vernon, Lyon, and Giverny, the fresh sea air, the architecture, the train rides, the walks and picnics, the nostalgia, references to French couture, and the delicate as well as exquisite culinary delights of the time. Monet’s garden is described as “…the best private Garden in France, perhaps in all of Europe.” Amidst all this beauty, we have a young man brimming with questions and an aged, sometimes “gruff” and “grouchy” artist on a journey of reminiscence.
The book offers insight into people, their hardships, but most importantly about relationships that evolve amidst eccentricities and awkwardness. The characters have a connection that runs far back than they have personally known each other. Intrigue and questions fill the pages. Even halfway through, the conflict and the suspense do not become blunt. Oscar’s passionate liaison with a young lady has a Mills and Boons feel to it.
I am glad to read this book and recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction and Impressionist art. It reminded me of another of my favorite historical fiction – Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The chapters flow seamlessly, introducing new characters, adding layers to a fascinating tale, intercepted only by the evocation of picturesque surroundings and the confusion and pining of a lonely, young man. Drama, romance, mystery; you have it all in a well-edited book with eloquent prose. Sample this – “The stalks were months from bowing their heavy heads with the weight of golden grains of harvest time.” Want to read more? Grab your copy.