When I was young, my greatest wish was to be a concert pianist. Prodigious at practice, I sat at the piano at least 4 hours day during the school year, and 8 during the summer. I was very good, if I do say so myself. My teacher had planned a Carnegie Hall concert for me, but my daughter had other plans. She wouldn’t let me practice. She was 3 months old and wanted to be held at all times when I played the piano. We couldn’t afford a baby sitter, so piano playing and practice took a back seat. Not so with my writing. I wouldn’t and didn’t let anything interfere with being at my computer. When I began writing, computers weren’t even heard of, so it was the typewriter. But I persevered, first with non-fiction, and then took classes to learn how to write fiction. This too required practice, practice and more practice. With the culmination of all that practice came the pages of Sargent’s Lady. It was vicarious living for me, and when you read it, I hope you find it the same for you.
Follow Maud Driscoll from Boston to continental Europe where she becomes a well known painter, but suffers from losing her child, and the man she loves. Available on Amazon.com
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Lillie’s life was hard, but we never heard her complain except in her letters to her friend Maud. But I love the character of Lillie because of her fortitude and strength, not only for herself but she gave it to her family as well. Her waking hours were long and hard but she still found time to be creative, something that gave her great joy. Writing of any kind has to be creative, or no one would read your words. When you read Sargent’s Lady, can you identify with Lillie? She’s a formidable character.
A Boston debutante becomes an artist in Europe, experiencing love and loss, in this debut historical novel.
In 1953, Peter Wells discovers that painter Maude Driscoll is the subject of a John Singer Sargent portrait spotted in a Washington, D.C., showroom. Noting to the clerk that he has “more than an artist collector connection” with Driscoll, Wells wonders, based on portrait details, “How in blazes did she get presented to Queen Victoria?” The novel then shifts to Boston, 1889. Driscoll just misses seeing off her best friend, Lillie Doty, who’s moving with her struggling family to California. The more affluent Driscoll soon attends Wellesley, with her British roommate eventually taking her to London (and that court presentation). Staying on to paint in Paris, Driscoll embarks on an affair with her roommate’s brother, who’s killed just as she learns that she is pregnant. Driscoll gives up her son for adoption and continues painting. At the outbreak of World War I, she returns to the United States for a brief marriage that turns out to be a sham and then relocates to Italy, where she eventually meets, then marries, another American. She resides in Washington for a spell and then returns full-time to Italy upon her husband’s death. She next marries an Italian baron and deals with the Nazi occupation. Throughout, Doty writes letters to Driscoll and then her own daughter, Evie. The back story of Wells, who first meets Driscoll in Paris in 1918 and marries Evie in the World War II era, is also unspooled. Fabris opens this novel with great flair, with that beckoning portrait and the touching heartbreak of girlfriends from different classes torn apart. Unfortunately, plot overload soon ensues, given that Driscoll marries many men, Doty writes a lot of missives (relating a rather humdrum life), and Wells has an array of highly fortuitous encounters (meeting not only Driscoll and Evie, but also saving Doty’s brother while a soldier in Europe). While the narrative always remains enjoyable, its key characters, particularly Driscoll, become engulfed rather than illuminated by this surfeit of details.
A sweeping, ultimately dizzying saga about a painter and her multiple marriages.