Pertinent Info

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland (Viking Penguin, 2007)
I finished it January 29, 2010.
The author’s story behind the painting of Renoir’s famous work.

Why’d I read it?

Book Club!  I got the reminder email on Monday, squeaked in dismay that I’d forgotten to read the book, and immediately reserved it at the library.  It became available Thursday morning; book club was Thursday night.  I got to page 357 and still managed to read more than anyone else in the group.  I was one of only two who were enjoying it.

What I thought

As I said above, I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it immensely, as a matter of fact.  It has so much to recommend it: art, Paris (le sigh), French cuisine, love, and beautiful language.  I didn’t know what to expect going in.  The other ladies in Book Club had said over email that they couldn’t get into it, but the rave reviews on the back of the library copy were from authors I quite like, and I’ve loved several other books of the same theme by Tracy Chevalier (The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn).  I decided to hold my breath and jump in.

As often happens when I read a new author, it took me a few pages to get used to the voice.  By the end of Chapter One, La Vie Moderne, however, I was hooked.  The language is a bit on the flowery side, but just a bit, and it’s entirely appropriate to the feel of the story and the setting.  In my opinion, it only enhances the telling.  The characters are engaging, and Renoir’s view of the world is exactly how I imagine an artist of his talent’s to be.

Just as interesting as the story of the painting itself is the background into the ups and downs of the Impressionist movement.  I may be biased, after all the Impressionists are by far my favorite painters, but I found it fascinating.  (Note to high school French teachers everywhere: This is a much more engaging way to educate your students on French art than making them memorize artists, paintings, and birth-death dates.  I’m just saying.)

Favorite Lines

“He felt as giddy as he had as a youth the moment before touching the first breast offered to him.”

“Do you think the people on that boat are slipping through their lives without noticing how excruciatingly beautiful everything is?”

“Her moment of keenest sorrow sucked the breath out of her.”

Would I recommend it?

Obviously, that’s a big, fat Yes.  Now please excuse me while I go reserve the author’s other novels at the library…