2 Chill-Out Books to Read Over July 4 (and More)
The Escape to Paris in Less Than 300 Pages
When we first meet Victorine Meurent, in 1862, she is sketching a storefront in Paris. A man watches from over her shoulder; she feels his gaze. He approaches, takes her pencil and, with a few quick strokes, makes her drawing come to life. The man is Édouard Manet, and this opening scene establishes the dynamic that is to follow between the painter and his muse. The bond they share is at once highly erotic and coolly sophisticated, a love based on shared artistic sympathies. She becomes the inspiration for his famous "Olympia" portrait, while he inspires her to see the world with the eyes of an artist. "Now when I walk down the street I notice different things," she writes. "Because of him." The greatest pleasure in Gibbon's historical novel comes from Victorine's insightful voice as she realizes her full potential, becoming a successful painter in her own right (a biographical fact). More than just a vacation to another time and place, this book is an inspiring tale about a woman who gave deeply in love but never gave herself away. As she herself says, "I always have more."