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Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler. Random House Ltd., 2016. 237 pp.

When I hear that Anne Tyler has come out with a new book, I look forward to reading it as they always seem to be a “good read”. I was a little disappointed at first though because it didn’t seem too “Anne Tylerish” at first, but then it grew on me.

It told a story about Kate, a rather difficult person, and her father (quirky) and sister (bad attitude). They lived together and as far as Kate and her sister were concerned not a great arrangement. Their father was a scientist and really never noticed that there were problems.

Things happen though, which “upset the applecart,” and you were not sure until the end how it would all turn out. It turned out that I enjoyed it very much, and will look forward to her next book. – C.M

I Always Loved YouI Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. Viking Penguin, 2014. 340 pp.

This novel, set in Paris in the 1870s and 80s, is the story of Mary Cassatt, the American artist who became famous as one of the impressionist painters during the belle epoch. She began her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art and continued her work in private studios in Paris. Her father wanted her to return to America, to marry and settle down, but she was determined to pursue an artistic career. Eventually her family would join her in Paris. Despite her domineering father, Mary was devoted to her family and especially close to her frail sister Lydia.

The author describes vividly how frustrating painting can be, how hard one can work but still end up in bitter disappointment. But how rewarding it can be when the work turns out well. Mary worked very hard in her studio. There is much about other impressionist painters and their struggles, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, to mention a few, but especially Degas who had a strong influence on Mary’s work and invited her to enter her work in the first impressionist exhibits. Always in the background of the story is the aura of contempt of the established art community toward the expressionists. Indeed, the term impressionist was originally one of ridicule.

There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that the relationship between Cassatt and Degas was a romantic one, but they were certainly close in other ways. Degas apparently was a very difficult person and Mary was a very independent woman. Nevertheless the author has chosen to portray these two remarkable people in love, and has done so in a very convincing way.

I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it! – P.M.

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