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Victorine Laurent's relatives can't wait to get rid of her and so they sell her as a mistress of an upper class merchant. So we understand the background of Victorine's passionate determination not to seek a lover but to seek a wealthy man who will give her eternal security. What a journey she begins in this phenomenal novel!
Imagine being Victorine and becoming the muse for the famous painter, Edouard Manet, as well as meeting and socializing with other well-known cultured gentlemen such as the artist Monet, the writer Andre de Montpellier, the writer Baudelaire, the musician Johann Strauss, etc. Manet's painting of Victorine brings both him and her instantaneous fame, and she becomes passiontely desired and hated by all of Paris, with very few middle-ground opinions.
Her notoriety will gain her entry into higher economic and social circles, from the Baron de Rothschild to the Duke of Lyons to even the Emperor, the latter whose Queen Eugenie will go to the most evil means to end Victorine's romantic and passionate effect on Emperor Louis-Napoleon and the entire court, indeed on all of Paris.
This sounds like a fairly predictable plot, but it most certainly is not. Plenty of surprises await the reader's delight. Debra Finerman is a remarkably gifted writer who makes every page penetrate the reader's every thought, feeling, and even physical sensation. You will get to know as much as you could possibly could in this very descriptive story about the Paris of the mid-1800s without actually being there, through the fascinating presentation of French (Paris for the most part) thinking, values, clothing and architectural styles, art, music, significant society events like The Universal Exposition, and the devastating rebellion that leads to poignant and useless suffering and death for too many.
The ultimate question is does attaining her initial goal bring Victorine happiness or failure? You will be quite astonished at the unexpected path the story takes at the very end.
Mademoiselle Victorine is an absolutely exquiste novel that you will never forget! It deserves the highest recommendations and the largest possible audience of readers! Superb, Ms. Finerman!!!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on July 14, 2007