Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor

proust-kosher-kitchenMadame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen is a re-read for me, after many long years. It came out in way back in 2003, i think, and that’s about when I originally read it. Kate Taylor, at the time, was a Globe and Mail personality, if such a thing exits. I remember reading it and loving it so much. I just wanted to talk to everyone about it. And I was also about mid-stride in my love affair with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Continue reading

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The Hotel on Place Vendome by Tilar J Mazzeo

hotel-place-vendomeI was going to Paris and wanted to read something set there to get me in the mood, so what better book than The Hotel on Place Vendome? The hotel being referred to is, of course, The Ritz and the book focuses primarily on The Ritz during the German occupation of Paris in World War II. Continue reading

In Montmartre by Sue Roe

In Montmartre by Sue RoeSometimes I wish I had studied Art History in university. That’s why I picked up In Montmartre by Sue Roe. It looks at the rise of Modernism in early 20th Century Paris by focusing on Picasso and Matisse. And when I say Picasso and Matisse, I mean mostly Picasso, which was a disappointment because I’m more of a Matisse kind of gal. Continue reading

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

Lovers-at-the-chameleon-club, Paris-1932Sometimes I just don’t know how to start a review, so I will just jump in with both feet. I was not thrilled with Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. Was it because I generally really like the author, Francine Prose? Was it because I expected amazing things out of this complex novel about the years leading up to the Second World War in Paris? Was it because I wanted this novel to be so different than anything else i’ve read? I don’t really know. Continue reading

Asunder by Chloe Aridjis

asunderI’ve been putting off writing this review for a couple of days, which for me is a very bad thing. I need to write while things are still fresh in my head. It made me think, why am I avoiding this so much? and I came up with a pretty good reason. First person narrative in which not a whole lot happens. It’s a pet peeve of mine and Asunder by Chloe Aridjis is told in this way.

At first glance Asunder looks like a pretty engaging novel. It is told from the point of view of a security guard at the National Gallery in London. I love behind the scenes looks at places like this, and Aridjis gives you some of that. There are interesting back stories about some of the different galleries and pieces of art, as well as National Gallery lore that you need to be on the ‘inside’ to know (at least I imagine you do). All that stuff I found interesting.

As mentioned above, my pet peeve was with the voice. Remember that it is just a pet peeve, others may not find it annoying, but anytime I see the word ‘I’ in an narrative my hackles are raised. Throughout Asunder the reader spends an awful lot of time inside the narrator’s head.  At times this renders the book more of a meditation than a story.

Who would like this book? If you are planning on visiting galleries in London anytime soon, I would recommend Asunder. Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I could have is because I do not know London or its major galleries all that well. But tracing the steps of the various characters in the novel might be fun. In addition to the National Gallery, the Tate is often talked about as well (and the Louvre when they go to Paris).

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

paintedgirlsI felt like everyone had read The Painted Girls but me. And that is part of the reason why I was resisting it. Sometimes books just get to be too popular and they become more of a fad than something worthy of reading. This is particularly true of so-called ‘women’s fiction’, a term I loathe. I didn’t read Eat, Pray Love or The Secret Daughter for that exact reason. Too much hype, not enough substance.

Thankfully, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan does not fall into that category. It really is worthy of all the hype it is getting. I should have known it would be. Buchanan’s previous book, The Day the Falls Stood Still was good. The Painted Girls, however, surpasses it by miles. It is a fully developed and very mature novel – much more than what I’d expect from some one’s sophomore attempt. The story is complex and nuanced and the writing is effortless. I enjoyed it far more than I expected and it contributed to a number of late nights because I couldn’t put it down.

The story is set in the late 19th century Paris. Buchanan weaves together two seemingly unrelated sets of historical facts to create a nuanced and exciting story. The first thread revolves around the Paris opera and the Van Goethem girls who are ballerinas there. The eldest gets sucked into a like of ill-repute. The middle child becomes a favorite of the ballet, models for Degas and gains an admirer who has the potential to life her out of a life of penury. Interwoven with their story is a tale of murder and ensuing trial. Together, the two threads paint an interesting picture of late 19th century life in Paris.

Who would like this book? The Painted Girls has been praised by just about every new outlet there is, so it is not unreasonable to suggest that most people would enjoy this novel. I don’t normally read historical fiction, but I found this to be extremely well researched. Buchanan’s website is well worth checking out as she has included images of the art she references in the book. This book is also sure to be a big hit with book clubs. Buchanan is very good at book club outreach and is willing to attend electronically through Skype.