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AMBITION AND LOVE by Ward Just

AMBITION AND LOVE

By Ward Just

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-395-68196-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 Just's (The Translator, 1991, etc.) tenth novel is one of his best. It's about a driven artist, a woman, who has chosen what Yeats called ``perfection...of the work.'' Harry Forrest, American expatriate, successful writer, is admiring the elegant Frenchwoman in the Paris museum when she identifies herself as Georgia Whyte, a Chicago native just like Harry. What follows is the story of her life since their only other meeting, years before back home. In 1968 she'd been an art student, scrutinizing the Winnetka country-club crowd so as to ``lay bare Chicago's hypocrisy'' on canvas. Her Chicago paintings didn't sell, so she moved to Los Angeles, where obnoxious movie producer Ed Smid paid top dollar for her ``product'' and promised fame if she'd do his portrait. But Georgia made art, not deals, even if her refusal meant losing her charming, corruptible boyfriend, Ed's assistant. She found temporary refuge with some surfers. For them, nothing existed but the waves; for Georgia, the canvas. After another spell in Chicago, she moved to Paris and lived reclusively. The only man in her life was a general; he was on horseback, his statue framed by her window. Georgia tried to wrestle him onto canvas, with the help of the ever-present Calvados, until she became deathly ill and was rescued by her neighbor, Alfred, a jazz pianist, and suddenly found herself in love with this gallant loser. A doomed affair, Harry thinks, but he's wrong again. When last heard from, the two bohemians and their baby are living happily in the provinces. What her enemies had seen as Georgia's ``cold heart'' had been her pure artist's soul. Georgia, a fine creation, is both type and individual. Her unceasing creative struggle, that of any artist, is integrated with her personal odyssey in a tightly focused story teeming with credible surprises from a writer at the height of his powers. (First serial to Esquire)