I have a passion for art history so when I was offered a book about Edgar Degas and his visit to New Orleans I was thrilled. I thank Caitlin Hamilton Summie for sending me a copy of Estelle by Linda Stewart Henley at no charge for my honest review.
When Edgar Degas visits his French Creole relatives in New Orleans from 1872 to ’73, Estelle, his cousin and sister-in-law, encourages the artist―who has not yet achieved recognition and struggles to find inspiration―to paint portraits of their family members.
In 1970, Anne Gautier, a young artist, finds connections between her ancestors and Degas while renovating the New Orleans house she has inherited. When Anne finds two identical portraits of Estelle, she discovers disturbing truths that change her life as she searches for meaningful artistic expression―just as Degas did one hundred years earlier.
A gripping historical novel told by two women living a century apart, Estelle combines mystery, family saga, art, and romance in its exploration of the man Degas was before he became the artist famous around the world today.
You can purchase Estelle at KonaBayBooks
About the Author:
Linda Stewart Henley is an English-born American who moved to the United States at sixteen. She is a graduate of Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans. She currently lives with her husband in Anacortes, Washington. This is her first novel
This year has been a good year for books about artists and their lives. While I enjoy the art of Edgar Degas, I can’t say that I know a lot about the man and his life. I did not know that he had come to New Orleans so I found the premise of this book fascinating. It takes place in two different times – as so many books these days seem to do; 1970 and 1872 so it is all historical fiction as opposed to a mix of current day and historical.
In 1970 a young woman named Anne Gautier is trying to restore an old New Orleans house she has inherited. It’s not easy going as there forces that don’t want gentrification – even though she is working on a family home. She is an artist and is struggling to find herself in her career and as an artist.
In the past Edgar Degas has come to New Orleans to visit family and while there he paints A Cotton Office in New Orleans showing his uncle’s cotton brokerage business. It was his first painting to be purchased by a museum and helped to turn his career around. He develops a close relationship with his cousin/sister in law, Estelle as she encourages him to pursue his art and, the rest as we know is history.
While Anne is working on the renovation of her house she finds a diary written by a young woman by the name of Margaurite that links her family to Degas. As Anne reads the diary she learns some troubling information about two portraits of Estelle and the man she is dating. The past may prove to haunt her future.
I found this to be a very riveting book. The story of Degas’s time in Louisiana sent off to research further as I often do when I read historical fiction – which is why I love it so much. It sends me off to learn more. Ms. Hunley got me involved in Margaurite’s story as well as Anne’s. Usually when I read dual timeline stories I am only drawn to one of the two plots but in this case I was thoroughly captivated by both. It was a wonderful escape from all of the work of the harvest this season – to just escape to New Orleans with Edgar Degas, a mystery or two, some very well crafted stories and then the itch to look up the paintings mentioned so I could revel in the brilliance of Degas’ art.
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