Fiction Book Club I Am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto Buy book: $16.09
Even before John Singer Sargent painted her portrait, Virginie Gautreau's reputation for promiscuity and showy self-display made her the subject of Paris gossip. Her scandalous portrait, unveiled in 1884, provides the inspiration for this debut novel--a compulsively readable immersion in Belle Epoque Paris.
Normally I save all my readings from the week to enjoy after school on Friday, but "I am Madame X" has completely sucked me in. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevelier (please excuse me if I mis-spelled her name).
I love the way the authour develops the person in the painting, giving us a sense of who this person was and what provoked them to pose. It's like a study of the painting, only we get to "see" the interpretation of the artwork from the view point of a writer. Each portrait could have been produced for any number of reasons, and the subjects have an infinite number of possibilites regarding their lives (their personality, their economic status, etc.) and reading about one possiblilty is incredibly fascinating to me. I enjoy art much more now, thinking of the not just the painter, but also his subject.
It's only Monday, but I can tell that this is a book that I'll have to buy. I'm looking forward to each new installment of this book this week.
Another novel about Madame X has just come out which also looks good entitled, Strapless, John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis. I'm planning to read them both. Similar to Girl with the Pearl Earring and Girl in Hyacinth Blue both based on a painting by Vermeer.
This message has been edited by chapteraday on Feb 12, 2004 5:51 PM
This first installment was such a lovely surprise for a gray, winter's day. From the very beginning I was drawn into the story. I appreciate the author's style of combining fiction with historical events. I eagerly await "the rest of the story".
I would like you or any other readers to suggest their favorite book of all time. I read books to large groups in senior centers, nursing homes, and also in hospitals. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.
Well, as you can tell from my title - I'm not much for this book.
I like my history "cut from whole cloth" - is that the correct expression?
I don't want to read a fictionalized account of someone's life. I just like the facts, m'am, thank you very much.
I understand historical novels - but my understanding of a historical novel is one set in a true historical setting with fictional characters - that I' m okay with - but don't take a factual "person" and fill it with "fictional" facts about that person.
As a result of reading this first read and looking up some reviews, have researched the artist and the portrait "Madame X" and the real woman who is the subject of the portrait.
Much more interesting to me this way and not boring at all. Much info out there on different web sites and factual books.
And for what it's worth, in my opinion, "Madame X" is a beautiful work of art.
We are at odds on this one!! You can't assume that what's contained between the covers of a book are true and factual, even if it's catalogued as "history." Having been raised in the south, I can tell you that the history texts in my schools presented a very different version of the US Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression as we preferred!) than those in northern schools. Unless the writer was an eye witness an event, she can't really write with absolute authority. I'm fine with dramatized accounts of historical events as long as they are true to the spirit of the life or event. This author paints such a vivid picture of the goings-on.
I loved "That Other Boleyn Girl", a fictionalized account of Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary. With so little written about her, it's impossible to get exact quotes, etc. The writing in this novel is riveting and I felt I learned a lot about the temper of the times.
With you, Doris...mostly... I have read a few Historical Fiction books that I love.. Lucia St. Clair Robson is an EXCELLENT author(ess?, lol) and I have reread many of her books, however THIS particular piece? couldn't get past installment #1. DELETING! and looking forward to next week. On the other hand, I am enjoying our romance selection... which oddly isn't very romantic :P
Thank you very much for your info concerning the book "Strapless". I have written down and already researched some of the books mentioned in these many responses. Am always on the lookout for a good book. - Doris -
After my rousing response yesterday, must say that had this book not been in the club, would not have looked up all the info I did and learned as much interesting info as I did - so guess that is a positive I should acknowledge to Suzanne for putting this book in. And am reading this week's reads.
But does anyone out there understand my point of view and where I'm coming from or am I out here on this desert island alone?
I agree with you. I should look up the real information about "Madame X". This doesn't really work for me. Too many charactors to read in an installment. Maybe I will keep the bits and try to read it as one at the end of the week to see if it flows better.
Being the History scholar that I am I see no sense in a book that takes real people of hisotry and fictionalizes them. There is no positive outcome to that except misunderstanding true History with fictional history.
....you are NOT alone out there!!!! However this time I am not in the boat with you....lol.....I'm sorry....historical fiction, when done well, is my favorite genre! BUt I completely understand where you are coming from...makes total sense. Aren't we all so lucky to have so many books to choose from? I'm half-way intrigued with Madame X but I doubt I'll finish the whole book.....maybe W-Th-F will change my mind.Meanwhile, back to Monkey Dancing!
Yes, eLIZabeth, I am the same Doris who tried to pull everyone kicking and screaming with me through the book "Keeping Faith".
Have you gone back lately and read all the responses? There were more and more -- don't remember if you said you finished the book or are still reading it - perhaps after this long period - we could post a "Do not pass this point unless you have finished the book" sign and continue to discuss there. The last post was I think Feb. 9.
I agree, Doris! I spend lots of my time doing research and one thing I have learned is that truth really is stranger (and lots more creative, usually) than fiction!
I would much rather get the foundation of facts and then let my own imagination run wild than read someone else's interpretation of the truth (a little tiny kernel) buried deep and fictionalized into a good story.
I love a great memoir or biography and I actively seek out nonfiction because a good writer can blow you away! If we only had some of those instead of history textbooks!
The language is rich in this one, but all the flowery adjectives and italicized french just seem to bury another soap opera...
I understand your feeling about books of this type, I just approach them from a different perspective. I read them all as FICTION. If the book is purported to be based upon an historical event and it piques my interest, then I'll go for in depth research. One could argue that all fiction is historical fiction since it has to be based in some time period. While the history might not be notorious, the author still has to draw upon facts generally accepted about the times. I like any book that holds my interest and paints pictures with words, no matter what the topic.
I too agree with you Doris. Though I understand and appreciate the creative force behind this book, it's not really my type of novel. It is a book that if I wasn't in the book club, I would have never read a word of it.
I am the type that judges a book by its cover. Well, I would have never picked this book up had it not been for the book club review. Anyways, I could care less if it is an exact/perfect account of history. I cant get enough of my fellow Louisianienne in this awesome book! I also recommend "One Hundred Years in Solitude".
Good comment about the history texts, Ann. But even an eyewitness account isn't necessarily "fact" ... one person's perception is reality for only that person. The rendering of every story is filtered through the experience and perspective of the teller. I expect "truth" in a nonfiction book. But if it's fiction, and the subject is one I can tolerate a little "playing with the facts" about, I'm just along for the ride.
The timing of "Madame X" is wrong for me this week. Monday's installment was good, but I've been deleting ever since ... have too many good books piling up right now ... isn't that a great "problem" to have?!
I am glad to see so many responses and different but good points of view. I am not close-minded and do love a good discussion - how else do we learn to think and discern - and does make for a very interesting forum. - Doris -
Exactly!!! How many times have we read a newspaper account of an event that we witnessed with our own eyes/ears and didn't recognize it? If the story is intriguing and the words are well strung together, I'll read just about anything, and assume it is all a product of imagination. I have a copy of this selection and hope to get through it this weekend.
It is especially hard to read something written in the first person about a historical figure and not believe it to be based in fact. Which to me is the problem with this kind of novel.Although it seems to be a delightfully adventurous story ,it is what is called (at best) a distillation of fact and fiction. As I remember , publishers started marketing these "distillations" almost a quarter of a century ago( roughly beginning with the publication of "Ragtime" in 1980). I didn't care for it then and I don't like it any better now;but that's just my opinon.For me the problem is both perception and distortion of the facts as imagine or speculated by the writer.There is an old African proverb that applies(particularly when it comes to perception) :"The hunter is the hero- unless the lion is telling the story"
Sorry, but I love historical fiction, including this one!
February 12 2004, 10:39 PM
While I prefer really good nonfiction (it is just that much more interesting when you know it is true), I love the period insight that good historical fiction gives you. I expect it to be influenced by the author's perspective (even nonfiction is slanted), but you can't help but walk away with an appreciation of time and place. Think "Memoirs of a Geisha" or "Girl in Hyacinth Blue". I'm currently reading "Cloudsplitter", another pre-Civil War era fictionalized biography -- this one of the famous abolitionist John Brown. It is absolutely fascinating even though I'm sure it incorporates only kernels of confirmed facts.
Think we have gotten into a little philosophal discussion here - which is okay, too - perception as reality, etc. But I do think there is some "truth" such as lately, in the news all we hear is about all the young girls being abducted and killed. That is "TRUTH" - there is no perception vs. reality there.
Realize I may be getting off the subject here a little, but the response about reading "everything" as fiction -including newspapers - bothered me. I do agree you can't believe everything you read and that -depending on which tv news or newspaper you are reading determines which "truth" you hear but I - as I am sure all of you all are - am very disturbed by all the violence in the world today - especially against our children.