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Lisette's List: A Novel by Vreeland, Susan (2014) Hardcover Hardcover – 1900
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Lisette and Andre Roux move from Paris to the village of Roussillon In Provence to care for his aged grandfather, Pascal. Lisette, dismayed at having to forego an apprenticeship in a Paris gallery, is not happy about the move. Andre, a picture frame craftsman, is patient and kindly and eventually she falls under the spell of Pascal who weaves marvelous tales of his association with the creators of beautiful paintings he now owns, and who coaches her in the ways of color, composition, and construction of masterful paintings.
She and Andre fall heir to Pascal’s collection and, when Andre leaves to join the fight against the Nazis who are invading southern France, he hides the paintings. He is killed before he can reveal their location to Lisette and they are lost. Lisette spends most of her time in the novel trying to locate the paintings. In the process, she comes to love the people of Roussillon, the countryside, and the beauty of the art she seeks.
The novel’s concept provides Vreeland with the opportunity to showcase her knowledge about artists and painting, enthrall the reader with glorious scenic descriptions, and display the product of meticulous research. I enjoyed the book despite some overworked prose and dialogue, and recommend it for a serious look at classic art and its creators.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
Lisette is the main character, but Pascal, her grandfather-in-law is the character who begins the book. Pascal began as a miner in the ocre mines, then a paint seller in Paris, a frame maker who is given several paintings because the artists cannot afford to buy materials to work on their paintings. Pascal helped them moneyways. As time goes on, these artists, Cezanne and Pissarro,become famous. Pascal realizes they will be, their paintings are priceless. Lisette and her husband, Andre, move to Roussillon. Pascal is aged, health failing. Oh how Lisette misses Paris where she has always lived and loved. Her mentor is the wonderful nun, Sister Marie Pierre, who taught Lisette to love life and to be aware of the world around her. Lisette was raised in a Catholic orphanage in Paris, her parents are gone.
Cezanne is from Provence, much admired by Lizette, Andre and Pascal. His paintings remind them so much of their home which all three love. Lisette falls in love with Roussillon, Provence and its people. Lisette writes out her list of seventeen different accomplishments she needs to work on. She has a hard time living during the war time, needing to live by herself, to do for herself. Andre has enlisted, leaving her alone in a strange world, a small provincial village. She is gifted with a small goat she names Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris, a hen she names Kooritzah, to provide milk to make cheese and get eggs. She loves these animals. There are the seven priceless paintings Andre has hidden that Lizette must find. The question is are these paintings worth more than human lives.
Ms. Vreeland writes beautifully about Roussillon and the countryside surrounding the village, plants, flowers, trees, birds in that part of the world. She knows much about Roussillon, Provence, Vaucluse and the history during the war. People are struggling to provide food, material to make clothes and shoes needs to be able to live. The Vichy government is stealing everything away to send to Germany. There are citizens who are traitors to their own country and turning in friends, neighbors, relatives to do well with the enemy. There are Resistance fighters fighting to save France.
Lisette loves art more and more and meets others who share her passion. She meets artist Marc Chagall and wife Bella who love goats and chichens as much as she does. Marc paints beautiful, different paintings. The couple are living in Gordes, needing to escape to America. Refugees from Paris are moving into Vaucluse,fleeing the Nazis, moving into abandoned buildings. Gypsies wander around. Waiting for Godot was written by Samuel Beckett possibly when he and two British ladies were living in Roussillon. Ms Vreeland has done much research on this book.
After a long, horrible time, the war finally ends. The Arlington Art Museum is presenting paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth is presenting art by Braque. Timely.