Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review: The Tenants of Hotel Biron by Laura Marello

Through a fictitious collection of manuscripts and letters we learn of the famous artists that lived in Hotel Biron during the end of the 19th c.  American photographer, Eduard Steichen is the guiding voice of the novel, bringing together the artists as they speak through their own writing.  In these manuscripts and letters, author Laura Marello, brilliantly brings out the artists’ tribulations, reflections, conflicts and for some, a heart-wrenching romance.  

Delectably written, we feel Camille Claudel’s restless and unsatisfying love for Rodin along with the burning energy that consumed the particular artists of the time: Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Rilke and others.  Not only do we get a feeling for what went through the minds of these great names, but we also get a sense of how they got to where they were through some retrospective recounting of marking points in their lives.  For instance, the possibility that the death of Rodin’s sister, would forever determine his inability to fulfill meaningful and lasting relationships with women becomes very real. The author challenges us to envision the minds and circumstances of this predominantly misunderstood clan in the imminence of World War 1. 

Stories of artists painted through manuscripts that come to life- dreamy yet plausible; The Tenants of Hotel Biron is a true delight for lovers of the arts, history and literature alike.  Almost feels like I got to know the artists personally- Excellent!

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