The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet Summary and Reviews

The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet

A Novel

by Maureen Gibbon

The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet by Maureen Gibbon X
The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet by Maureen Gibbon
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About this book

Book Summary

A sensual portrait of Manet's last years, and a vibrant testament to the endurance of the artistic spirit.

Suffering from the complications of syphilis toward the end of his life, Édouard Manet begins to jot down his daily impressions, reflections, and memories in a notebook. Between healing respites in the French countryside and holding court in his Paris studio, he finds inspiration in nature―a cloud of dragonflies, peonies blanketed by the morning dew―and in the ocean-blue eyes of his muse, Suzon. Entranced by Suzon, he decides to paint his final masterpiece, "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere", life-sized―wagering his health in the process. In this stunningly original work of historical fiction, illustrated with Manet's own sketches, Maureen Gibbon offers an indelible snapshot of genius, illness, and the dying embers of passion.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Reminiscent of Victorian fiction, this epistolary novel reads as intimately as a found artifact from Manet himself. Readers may find it difficult to extract themselves from the story to recall that this is not in fact a primary source but rather a constructed narrative. This compelling and revealing book furthers a cultural understanding of Manet's place in time and art, a difficult task for a difficult character. Very well done." - Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA

"Though the notebook's brief, episodic texts never gather much in the way of momentum, Gibbon speaks eloquently of the human capacity to live fully amid devastating challenges. It's well done, though for a novel about an innovative artist, it's also remarkably tame." - Publishers Weekly

"Like one of the master's paintings, The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet is universal in ambition, delicate in sensibility, and intimate in scope. In other words, this book is a miracle." - Rabih Alameddine

This information about The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

A Magical Glimpse Into the Painter
This "memoir" is a fascinating peek into the life of the French painter Édouard Manet. I enjoyed looking up references to the paintings and people mentioned. Everything was real and had interesting histories, so it was like reading two books at once – this memoir, and then a history book that I gathered online about Manet's works and acquaintances. Similar to Cormac McCarthy's unapologetic use of Spanish or obscure words, by searching myself for their meanings, I become much more involved in the story and learned a lot. There was poignancy in the physical pain and emotional suffering Manet bore, from his disease and from the art world's rejection of his work. The book also included lots of wise statements about life, the meaning of art, and what motivated Manet. Lots of little gems in this book. I will look into Maureen Gibbon's others. Her poetic imaginings of Manet's thoughts were lovely, and her inspiration to look deeper was appreciated.

Mary Ann S. (Virginia Beach, VA)

Carpe diem....
Édouard Manet was in his mid-forties when he began to suffer the effects of syphilis and died when he was only 51 (soon after the book ends.) The "lost notebook" contains his journal entries for the last 3 years, or so, of his life. I love when a book has a good story as well as inspires me to learn new things. I spent at least several hours exploring Manet's paintings, his models, friends and family, the history of syphilis, etc. However, I believe the book would still be enjoyable for readers who are not interested in doing extracurricular research. I enjoyed the notebook format and loved the writing. I highlighted several passages, but a couple quotes that stood out to me were: "You never think of health until it begins to fade." And Manet's notebook entry about how it's easy to remember "firsts" but" What is much harder is to know the last of things. Those you do not recognize until time has passed." How true!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already recommended it.

Sandy D. (Houston, TX)

Historical Fiction
Edouard Manet, one of my favorite French artists, died from complications of syphilis at the age of 51. A long time friend advised Manet to put his thoughts in a "Notebook" during these last months of his life, "You cannot paint everything". Manet realized he didn't have the time to paint everything and learned to enjoy writing his daily impressions, and memories. The writing style of author Maureen Gibbon is beautiful and reflects the insight of this brilliant artist and the pain and frustrations of this devastating illness. During this period he did paint his final masterpiece, the life-sized painting, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. This magnificent painting won him a medal from the Paris Salon and the Legion of Honor from France. Highly recommend.

Therese R. (Bellingham, WA)

Looking over Manet's shoulder.
I love this book. Maureen Gibbon's innovative way of giving us a front-row seats as Edouard Manet ponders his illness, and paints his eternally beautiful and thought-provoking pictures. Who else but he would conceive, let alone transmit to canvas his Bar at the Folies Bergere, with its double reflections? The winsome barmaid is presented face-on, putting us in the same place as her shadowy top-hatted patron, seeing her as he did? Gibbon allows us to be party to Manet's notebook entries, his thoughts on his contemporary artist friends, their foibles, rivalries and successes, the eternal politics surrounding the annual Paris Salon which showcases artists' creations during a particular year. Interspersed among these reminiscences are Manet's amours, past and present, always mindful that discretion is the better part of a gentleman's valour, even, or especially on Eros's fields of love.
This is a treasure of a book to be savored over and over again. Highly recommended.

Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO)

Amazing Life Memoir
I was extremely impressed with this book. I found myself wondering if this was indeed fiction because Gibbon's ability to portray the voice of Edouard Manet as authentic, even though I have never read any of his writings, of which several have been preserved as I found out at the library. I cannot even image the pain and suffering he went though with the disease and the loss of his ability to paint, let alone just get through the day. Her descriptions about the interactions with people of his time are wonderful, so much so I also began reading about them. The way in which the author describes Manet's musings about painting and colors is so intense that it has prompted me to return to drawing. Very few authors can excite a reader to that level and to investigate people of the story outside of the story and Maureen Gibbon has done exactly that, kudos to a job well done.

Ann B. (Bethlehem, PA)

Marvelous
Marvelous, a work of art. While Manet painted his masterpieces with a brush, Maureen Gibbon paints with words. Using a journaling style, Gibbon recounts the final years of Manet's life as he endures complications from syphilis. As an art enthusiast, selecting this book about Manet was easy. However, this book is so much more, a stream of literary consciousness that uniquely communicates the human thoughts and perspective of Manet on life and his art. Keeping my iPad close by, I Googled each painting or drawing as Manet gave a voice to the work in his words. Gibbon's attention to research and her knowledge of his life will lead you to believe that she somehow supernaturally communicated with the artist.

...19 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Maureen Gibbon

Maureen Gibbon is the author of Paris Red, Thief, and Swimming Sweet Arrow. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New York Times, Literary Hub, Playboy, and other publications. Gibbon resides in northern Minnesota.

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