Loving Modigliani - The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne A novel by Linda Lappin - 2020
I have been an avid reader of Linda Lappin ever since I read her award winning novel, Katherine's Wish, based on the last years of the life of Katherine Mansfield. I have also read and greatly enjoyed her two other novels, both set in Tuscany, The Etruscan and Signatures in Stone, which is a finalist for the Daphne Du Maurier Award from Romance Writers of America, in the history category.
One great writer often leads you to another, but not always in the ways we might expect. 11 years ago I began reading and posting on all the then published short stories of Katherine Mansfield. After completing the stories I discovered Linda Lappin had written a highly regarded novel centering on Katherine Mansfield's last year. I read Katherine's Wish and felt Lappin had a profound understanding and sympathy for Mansfield as a writer and as a person. I now see how this all ties in with Lappin's wonderful, The Soul of Place, A Creative Writing Workbook, Ideas and Exercises for Capturing the Genius Loci. Mansfield (1888 to 1923) left her home country of New Zealand for London in 1908 never to return. In the stories of Mansfield you see a constant search for a home, a longing for a place of beauty. I feel Mansfield was searching for a Sacred Place, for holy texts and holy men. In her brief stories, such as the wonderful early works contained within In a German Pension, she is able to create a strong and deep sense of place. The ability to do this is one of the lessons imparted in Lappin's workbook.
I find a great depth of knowledge combined with a deeply intuitive
sensibility in Lappin’s work that brings what she writes about to life with cinematic verisimilitude. Her prose has great elegance, her people are real, her history is right. She is a master of atmosphere. Her novels are exciting and just flat out a lot of fun to read.
I am so pleased to be able to close out my 2020 Reading Life Year by letting my readers know of her new novel.
Amedeo Modigliani (1884 to 1920) is now considered one of The greatest of early 20th century artists. Lappin takes us deeply into the trubulent struggling Parisian artist. Modigliani was Italian but knew Paris was his artistic home. Like many artists, he hired Young women to pose nude for him.
Jean Hébuterne (Born: 6 April 1898, Meaux, France
Died: 26 January 1920, Paris - )met him at age sixteen and quickly moved from model to lover then pupil. Modigliani had a reputation as a womanizer. Jean’s parents were agast at their relatiionshio. As relationship progresses Germany and France are at war. Jean’s beloved older brother joined the French army. Through experiences of Jean, we meet other artists and I felt a close observer almost there in the Montparnasse district of Paris, then Center of the art scene in Paris. Jean to her families horror gets pregnant and has Modigliani’s daughter.
He promised marriage but never kept his word.
Jean falls to her death from a window in the apartment she shares with Modigliani at age 21. Some said his philanderings led her to suicide, others felt it was an accident. I do not want to give away very much of the marvelously original plot other than to say there are several different interconnected segments coming from her death.
We follow Jean after death as she wanders through Paris. This was just too exquiste a trip for me to describe. I loved her cat companion and spirit guide, also dead who helped Jean figure out where she now was. She spends about 25 years in Paris. It turns out their are all sorts of rules the dead must follow. She comes to see the impact of German rule on Jews in Paris.
We leave Jean for a while. We take up with an American graduate student in Paris to Research Modigliani, fifty years have gone by. She ends up meeting fascinating people with connections to him.
Modigiliani’s paintings now bring millions of dollars. She becomes involved with a search for a missing painting.
There is also a delightful closing episode taking a still deceased Jean to the South Pacific.
Lappin has produced a masterpiece. As I read I could not wait to see what marvel she would next offer me, what plot turns would be taken. Her prose has a very painterly style, her descriptions of interiors of Parisian dwellings would stand up next to Balzac and Proust.
I give this book my complete endorsement. To aspiring writers I suggest you first digest Lappin’s The Soul of Place, A Creative Writing Workbook, Ideas and Exercises for Capturing the
Genius Loci then read this novel to study how Lappin creates a sense of place.
Don Wallace, author of The French House, elegantly evokes the wonder of this book
“Praise for Loving Modigliani What a story Linda Lappin has to tell in the short life and long legend of Amedeo Modigliani, compulsive seducer, dedicated decadent and artist whose vision, like El Greco’s, seemed to warp the very air. But it’s the verve and authority with which Lappin centers her story on the parallel life (and afterlife) of Jeanne Hébuterne, artist and Modigliani’s model and lover, that amplifies the achievement of this scintillating tale, which is also a love story, a ghost story and a treasure hunt through the decades for a lost masterpiece. Through Jeanne’s female gaze, the great tapestry of Paris and its fervid art scene is rendered with twice the depth of field and emotional color. The result is a novel of high originality, page-turning pace and a poetic precision so impeccably deployed that the book unfolds like a living, breathing, 3-D spectacle in the reader’s mind.”
PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne—wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right — haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne's work from obscurity. A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.
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Linda Lappin is the prize-winning author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin deWorde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft, 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne (Serving House Books, 2020). She won the Daphne Du Maurier Award from Romance Writers of America in 2014
.She is also the author of The Soul of Place: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci (Travelers Tales, 2015), which won a Nautilus Award in the category of creativity in 2015. A former Fulbright scholar to Italy, she has lived mainly in Rome for over thirty years. Her websiteis www.lindalappin.net.
This is a perfect book for any quarantined reader
The Reading Life