Overall, though, a provocative rendering of female genius wrestling for recognition in the male-dominated art world.

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CAMILLE CLAUDEL

A NOVEL

In a fictionalized treatment, the French sculptor looks back on her sometimes ecstatic, but mostly tortured life.

Bond, a retired Freudian psychoanalyst and author of a number of varied works, here focuses her psychoanalytic acumen on the complex character of a prominent late-19th- to early-20th-century artist whose achievements came at great personal cost. Claudel (1864–1943), now widely acknowledged as a brilliant sculptor, suffered much of her artistic life because of her romantic liaison with–and inevitable artistic comparison to–the philandering Auguste Rodin, hailed at the time as the greatest sculptor of his day. At first, Claudel benefited both professionally and personally from her relationship with Rodin, but when she realized he wasn’t going to leave his wife, the critics’ comments that she had copied the “master” began to gnaw at her fragile sanity; soon she loathed him with the fervor of her former affection, thinking he was out to claim her accomplishments as his own. Bond suggests this paranoia spurred a detachment from reality that prompted Claudel’s mother in 1913 to commit her to an insane asylum from which she would never emerge. Bond’s portrayal also illuminates other troubling aspects of Claudel’s story, including her charged relationship with her younger brother, Paul, another male uncontested “genius” in her life, as well as with her mother, who left her daughter in the asylum even when psychiatrists recommended in 1920 that Claudel be released and reintegrated with her family. While the author’s sympathetic and detailed account convincingly paints the struggles of the female artist, her reading of Claudel’s work as having sprung in a neat one-to-one relationship from her joy or trauma du jour is both reductive and reflective of a level of self-awareness that’s difficult to believe coming from a character writing from the madhouse.

Overall, though, a provocative rendering of female genius wrestling for recognition in the male-dominated art world.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2005

ISBN: 978-1-4241-1670-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2011

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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