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The Flower to the Painter Paperback – June 23, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gary Inbinder is the author of The Devil in Montmartre and The Hanged Man and hisfiction, articles, and essays have appeared in Bewildering Stories, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Absent Willow Review, Morpheus Tales, Litsnack, Touchstone Magazine, and other publications. He is a member of both the Historical Novel Society and the Bewildering Stories Editorial Review Board. He lives in Woodland Hills, California.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Fireship Press (June 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611791618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611791617
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,187,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gary Inbinder's second novel, The Flower to the Painter, transports the reader into the elegant, commercialistic art world of late nineteenth-century Europe. Through the sharp eye of protagonist Marcia Brownlow, we float along the canals of Venice, travel by train through the Alps, and meet John Singer Sargent, Leighton, Whistler, and other memorable painters of the time. We even exchange sketches with Renoir in Montmartre.

Marcia Brownlow was down on her luck when she came to Europe as a governess, a position that quickly became intolerable. Pleading her case before the wealthy aunt of her best friend, Marcia is faced with a risky but lucrative proposition. She accepts the challenge of working for a famous writer not as Marcia but as her brother, Mark. The combination of Mark's gender advantage and Marcia's artistic talent quickly propels her into a promising career. Her "unnatural" bent toward women allows to her romance her wealthy patronesses with pleasure, but only up to a certain frustrating point. Which will Marcia choose: her love or her art? Does it have to be one or the other?

Inbinder's intuitive sense of the sights, sounds, and smells of the period help the reader to feel that Marcia's conflicted, quixotic adventure is their own. It's not easy for a male author to convince the reader that he's inside the head of a female narrator, but even that metaliterary tension contributes to the success of this delightful novel.

In short, Inbinder's vivid language and memorable characters immerse the reader in the nineteenth-century European art scene. This book is a must-read for any art history fan as well as readers interested in a satisfying, gender-bending romance.

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Format: Paperback
Gary Inbinder's new novel "The Flower to the Painter" is a scintillating tapestry of lives lived on the cusp of 1870s high society and the artistic milieu which it both supported and exploited.

There is fine mood setting and character delineation in the opening chapters, with a nice achievement of dramatic equilibrium in the ruthless ambitions of the two main women portrayed there. And we quickly realise that we are reading not a lightweight romance novella but a potentially much richer and deeper literary work.

And then the author sets himself a classic challenge. Let's face right up to it here: Can the reader seriously believe in any story where a woman decides to impersonate a man and gets away with it for more than thirty seconds? Well, we believe in it without blinking in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" ... and perhaps mainly because it's Shakespeare. Thankfully we can accept it all the more readily here, because Inbinder steadily and surely suspends our disbelief with the finest attention to every little detail (both nice and nasty, both public and private) of his heroine's partly enforced subterfuge.

And once we do believe, we can luxuriate without a care in the richness of the story itself!

Soon, our new "hero" -- a talented young artist -- has managed to hoodwink both a man of the world and a sought-after heiress. Or has he really? And there will be many other men and women to be deceived (or not) along the way. The reader, largely (but not completely) in sympathy with Marcia (now Mark) Brownlow's successive challenges and crises, will ponder such agonising questions along with "him" throughout the star-studded story.

This carefully crafted novel does not rely much on dramatic action, let alone melodrama, for its powerful effect.
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Format: Paperback
I found it easy, enjoyable, interesting reading. The characters are vivid, the plot is intriguing, the sense of time and place is beautifully evoked.
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Format: Paperback
With the elegance, eloquence and perceptiveness of Henry James of Arthur Schnitzler, Gary Inbinder explores the sexual, artistic and social politics of Euro-American relations. His sensual, tangible heroine is bound to move the readers' hearts and fancies. Too often, too many historical novelists are tempted to make their work "relevant" by capitalizing on what they perceive to be pressing issues (gender roles, social injustice), thinking that doing so will make their work somehow more readable or commercial, while in reality they put themselves at risk at sounding as if though they have a huge chip on their shoulder and are only using fiction to promote their own political agenda. Gary Inbinder avoids that trap. The demeanor of his characters is perfectly in tune with the world in which they live. This novel is not a starving artist anthem. It's a brilliant, accurate portrayal of an era in visual arts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
1876; Florence, Italy.

Marcia Brownlow, a young American woman sojourning in Italy, has just been fired from her position as a governess for fighting back when her employer tried to molest her. Marcia is taken in by her well-to-do friend Daisy, who lives with her elderly aunt. The set-up is much like any number of romance novels set in the Victorian era but soon begins to differ. In typical Victorian fashion there are a lot of social intricacies involved as part of the set-up but essentially what happens next is Marcia masquerades as Mark Brownlow, using the name of her dead brother to obtain a position as factotum for Arthur Walcott, a famous author (modeled after Henry James).

Marcia as Mark, reveals her talent as an artist to Walcott and soon employer becomes agent, furthering Brownlow's career (which in 1870 might not have taken place if Mark had been Marcia, notwithstanding a few reknown female painters such as Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.)

At this point I was drawn into the story, not sure where it was leading. I wanted to find out if Marcia was as opportunistic as she first appears. Marcia as Mark lives a lie but paints truth and beauty as she sees it. I enjoyed the allusions to Henry James and his Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller. The episodic plot and the theme of a woman in disguise making good in a man's world also reminded me of Erica Jong's conniving "Fanny Hackabout Jones" and Defoe's opportunistic "Moll Flanders" and "Roxanna" but with one ironic exception: Mark loves women and so does Marcia.

I give this novel five stars because of the risks the author takes, the irony he achieves,and for the way he immerses us in the decadent lives of the artists and the double standards of the time.
Rich and unpredictable!
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