Sunday 10 December 2023

The Light of Paris

Finished December 2
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

I love Brown's books, and this is no exception. Here Madeleine is a woman who has always felt herself to be a misfit, whether in the private school her parents sent her to or in the social world of her husband's business contacts. What Madeleine loved was art, and although she'd been allowed to do art in school, her work wasn't valued by her parents, and she ended up succumbing to the pressure from her mother to get married. Phillip is a successful businessman who met Madeleine through her father's business and while moving in the world her parents expected, proves to be a very controlling husband. Phillip has an interior designer do their home, not allowing Madeleine to have any input on the minimalist style, nor does he allow her to work, or do her art. The only outlet to pleasure she has is as a volunteer docent at the art gallery, where she leads tours. The book opens on one of these tours, and the comments from the teacher escorting the students Madeleine is guiding around the gallery speak to something in her. She is due to go home to her mother for a week the following day, and while there discovers the diaries of her grandmother Margie, and finds that Margie also had an artistic bent and was denied fulfillment in her passion. The diaries reveal Margie's one experience of true freedom, living in Paris for several months, earning her own living, and as Madeleine reads of Margie's life, she determines what she has to do in her own. 
This is a novel of what happens when family expectations don't lead down the same road as one's own bent, and how hard it is to overcome the path that is set for oneself. Brown makes her scenes vivid here, so that I could experience the situations the characters were in, and found myself urging them to speak up for themselves. It was lovely to see the women bloom when they were in their element. I should note that it wasn't only the women characters who were forced into a life they wouldn't choose by family expectations, as there were men in similar circumstances, although the focus was on the women. 
A great read.

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