Date read: 22nd July 2018 – 27th July 2018
Page count: 508
Genre: Historical fiction
Format: Ebook Proof Copy (from NetGalley)
This was an absolutely horrible book. Be prepared for a rant review…
(Luckily because this was a NetGalley book so I’ve been able to look to my review on there and on Goodreads to renew my anger about how bad I felt this book was. Of course, no hate to the author, but my opinion is my opinion.)
This book is based on the portrait artist Charles Carolus-Duran and his painting of ‘Mlle Croizette on Horseback’ (according to the author’s Goodreads profile), which just makes me think that she could have done so much more with that idea. As for the plot, there ultimately wasn’t much of one.
Where I was expecting an interesting historical fiction novel about late 1800’s France in the time of the artistic revolution… Well, this isn’t what I would consider interesting. Unfortunately, what starts out as an engaging narrative, voiced by a real-life portrait artist (who I had never heard of before requesting this novel), ends up in odd, semi-erotic accounts of a man’s creepy love-at-first-sight obsession with a beautiful young woman, who is somehow in love with him within seconds, too.
Not only was the love-at-first-sight incredibly territorial, but the way that he describes this girl is just weird. He spends a lot of time sticking on how beautiful and clever he thinks she is, and I never feel like her personality is ever really shown. I’m not sure why I expected much for her personality with such a bad male narrator, but it just wasn’t a good idea. It has been a while since I read this so I can’t remember if she ever narrates anything in the book, but if she does, then she doesn’t say anything particularly inspiring. Marie was always more a part of Charles than actually being herself.
One of the major sticking points that didn’t resonate with me, besides the love-at-first-sight trope. was also the writing style. Parts of the writing were honestly very well written, but descriptions went on for so long that they dragged, and the overall feel was clunky like it was several parts of a different story mixed together. A fellow reader describes it as ‘read[ing] like an encyclopedia’, which I can’t help but agree with.
It was an opportunity for a strong, feminist character that was far off the mark, and accompanied by Charles’s overall unlikeableness (the ‘nice guy’ stereotype springs to mind) and his ability to get away with literal murder (I would call spoiler but you don’t want to waste your time reading this), it created a novel which I just couldn’t enjoy, for several different reasons.