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Life Studies : Stories Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 16, 2004

19 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, December 16, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having carved out a niche as an insightful and sensitive chronicler of artists' lives, Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue) continues to consider the artistic impulse with fresh and imaginative fictional portraits. The first eight stories in this collection are based on biographical incidents in the lives of such artists as Renoir, Van Gogh and Cézanne, though the painters themselves are not the protagonists but figures to the side, as it were, in the lives of other people. A wet nurse who cares for Berthe Morisot's baby daughter gradually becomes aware of the liaison between Morisot and her brother-in-law, Édouard Manet. At Giverny, Monet's gardener watches in anguish as the artist burns his water lily paintings. Vreeland herself has a painterly eye that conveys vivid sensory impressions of rural landscapes, city street scenes and domestic interiors. The remaining 10 stories revolve around ordinary people who are profoundly influenced by exposure to artistic creation. Notable is the semiautobiographical "Crayon, 1955," in which a young girl of humble background is introduced to pre-Columbian figures and Picasso's paintings, which enable her to accept the death of the grandfather who encouraged her to see the beauty in differences. While some stories stretch the theme too far, the best of them have a luminous clarity that does justice to the author's intentions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Vreeland, whose Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) fictionalized the story behind a Vermeer painting, again blends fact and fiction to bring artists and the lives of those affected by them to life. She approaches her subjects, from Renoir to a young girl coming to terms with death, with emotional sensitivity and great humanity, revealing how they, too, survive daily life. With a wonderful eye for detail and thorough research, she recreates the Impressionist and post-Impressionist worlds. A few minor quibbles: the first set of stories threatens to veer into romance novel melodrama, and the high moral value placed on art creates perhaps unrealistically optimistic messages. Vreeland hopes to show the redeeming power of art in this beautiful collection, and she does.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0670031771
  • ASIN: B0009S5A9O
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,956,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Vreeland's short fiction has appeared in journals such as The Missouri Review, Confrontation, New England Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. Her first novel, What Love Sees, was made into a CBS Sunday Night Movie. She teaches English literature and Art in San Diego public schools.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Genevive on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Susan Vreeland is fast becoming one of my favorite living authors. Her ability to draw you quickly and seamlessly into a living moment is one of the best I have come across, and I was impressed and relieved to find that the details I found the most poignant in her historical fiction sketches were the ones she gave bibliographic references for at the end of the book. In addition, I found her web sight containing the art pieces referenced in her stories at the beginning of my reading, and it greatly enhanced my overall experience:


In general, I found this book absorbing and vivid, but educated and relatively free from sentimentality. She is able to change voices well from character to character, but not so abruptly and obviously that the book loses fluidity. These chapters, each dedicated to a human life affected by a particular work of art, were saturated with reality and living detail. Really beautifully done; I was sorry to see it end.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Much like Tracy Chevalier, Vreeland dips her pen into the palette of great art in search of human drama. An apt choice, for this is a novel filled with life, an emotional canvas as rich and varied as humanity itself. Instead of the obvious, the artists themselves, Vreeland writes about their contemporaries, the people around the genius of creativity, fleshing out the lives of her chosen artists, the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, their lovers, children, neighbors and servants. These observers enjoy the most intimate knowledge of the daily struggles, the passion to create vs. the need to provide for families and how their behavior affects those around them.

Beginning in France in 1876, we are introduced to Renoir, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Modigliani. In "Winter of Abandon", Claude Monet's wife dies, his children and those of his mistress stranded in the harsh winter, understanding that the lady must reclaim her family name at the thaw of spring. Meanwhile they cling to a world isolated from reality. The days are difficult for the wet nurse of the baby of Berthe and Eugene Manet ("Cradle Song") and her own child dies while she lives with the couple. Completely unaware of the heartbreak of the servant's life, the couple fixates on their own obsessions, including Berthe's attraction to her brother-in-law, Edouard Manet. And in "Olympia's Look", Suzanne Manet, widow of Edouard, enjoys the revenge of a lifetime.

Vincent Van Gogh ("The Yellow Jacket") warns his subject, "You can ruin yourself in the night cafes", where the absinthe flows freely and muddles the senses. Walking the streets of Arles, Van Gogh stares raptly at the wonder of nature's colors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Cowell VINE VOICE on April 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Susan Vreeland's first book, the exquisite "Girl in Hyacinth Blue," was told in a series of stories centering around one Vermeer painting. In this book she returns to the story form, this time concerning many artists instead of just one. It contains moments of real beauty and for those who love art, or grew up with artists as I did, quite real and memorable.

These are unusual stories in form and perception. Art and the artist are seen from an angle, often told from the perspective of a model or a child or a lover. It is as if you rounded a corner and bumped into Renoir's easel or noticed Cézanne across a country road talking to a friend. These artists touch you as they really lived, as rather ordinary people. The stories are sometimes as quiet as walk in the woods. But in the end you feel you have known the little boy who threw stones at Cézanne, or the tired banker who goes to a weekend gathering in Montmartre and finds, in a short conversation with the artist Renoir who lives upstairs, a new joy in his life.

Of the contemporary stories in the second half of the book, "Crayon," about a little girl and her dying artist grandfather is such a beautiful piece of writing.

This book is for any reader who would like to know what it was like to see one of these artists not as some sort of sexual athlete or superman but walking across the street quietly with his paint box in his hand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ilvbks on July 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
A friend that I take art classes with recommended this book. I've really enjoyed it. It's a collection of stories that show how deeply art can affect average people in their daily life.

The main quote of the book explains well the message of these stories: "The real question is: To whom does the meaning of the art of the past properly belong? To those who can apply it to their own lives, or to a cultural hierarchy of relic specialist? - John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1977"

The author gives awesome examples of how art can touch you regardless of age, practice, education level, and culture. Some of the stories refer to renowned past artists and the inspirational effect they have on others, while others present average people opening to art.

Not a full 5-star though, as some of the stories could have taken a bit more work to get them polished at the level of a few, outstanding ones. I found the following excellent: The Yellow Jacket; Crayon, 1955; At Least Five Hundred Words, with Sincerity and Honesty.

A heart warming and inspirational book.
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