The Painter’s Girl by Helen Fripp
The Painter's Girl: Absolutely heartbreaking historical romance set in Paris by Helen Fripp
‘I want to paint you,’ he whispers. In his high-ceilinged studio filled with golden light she takes in the canvases propped against every wall, the paints like jewels. She thinks of the pictures she longs to paint, of her lost little girl playing in sunlit gardens. Will she ever see her daughter again?
Paris, 1860s. For Mimi Bisset, survival is everything on the cobbled streets of the Paris slums. She tries to forget the pain of losing her daughter Colette: born out of wedlock and forcibly given away to a rich family. But Mimi’s world turns upside down after a chance encounter with handsome artist Édouard Manet. Boldly posing for portraits on Manet’s chaise longue, Mimi feels a wild freedom – and as Manet teaches her how to layer the vivid paints on canvas herself, a passion grows between them that breaks all the rules…
At Manet’s side, Mimi is caught up in his world. They dance all night at Paris’s new can-can clubs and drink absinthe at masked balls. But one day, strolling by the Seine on her lover’s arm, Mimi catches a glimpse of familiar green eyes… it’s Colette, with a family who Manet knew all along.
Although she’s reeling that the man she loved kept such a secret from her, Mimi is filled with hope she’ll finally get her daughter back. But when a terrible rumour begins to circulate about Mimi, the only place she has to go is back to the slums. Destitute, hungry and alone, can Mimi clear her name? Or will her heart shatter all over again when she loses her daughter for a second, final time?
A completely gripping and heartbreaking read that will whisk you away to 19th-century Paris. Perfect for anyone who loves Marie Benedict, Chocolat and Dinah Jefferies.
What struck me most in this book was the colour, movement and vibrancy of 19th century Paris that the author has created. The slums of Montmartre with ragpicker children and steamy laundries, contrast with the sparkle and spectacle of the circus and the hazy absinthe world of the artists. It all came alive through Mimi, a young woman who gives life everything she has got, which is nothing in terms of wealth or status, but everything in terms of steely determination to succeed. She wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries – her own and those imposed on her by society, and I couldn’t help but be drawn into her life and want her to achieve her dreams, despite the social inequalities of the time.
Her friendship with Edouard Manet was as destructive as it was inspiring for them both. There was passion, but nothing could take away the sadness that drove Mimi, the desperation to succeed in order to get her daughter Colette back, and the impossibility of what she was asking of herself.
I know it’s fiction, but I finished this book really believing I’d had a glimpse into Paris of the Impressionists and felt a kinship with the Batignolles group that included Monet, Degas and Renoir, just as their day was dawning. I even found myself googling some of the works of art that made an appearance in the book and if I could, I’d be in Paris knocking on the door of the Musée d’Orsay, ready to feast my eyes on the real things.
This is a book for the dreamers, a reminder to never let that fire within you go out. There was passion, love and life in abundance, and like a great work of art, there was always some little detail on the pages to catch my eye.
|The Painter's Girl by Helen Fripp|
I love delving into the past and uncovering new stories, and in my writing, the tiniest historical detail can spark an idea for a whole chapter. My female characters rail against the social constraints to which they are subject and often achieve great success, but they are of course flawed and human, like the rest of us. It’s the motivations, flaws, loves and every-day lives of my characters that I love to bring life, against sweeping historical backdrops - and I will find any excuse to take off and research a captivating location or person for my next story.
I spent a lot of time in France as a child, have lived in Paris and spent a year with my family in a fishing village in South West France, so that’s where my books have ended up being set so far. Who knows where next!
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