The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman: A Novel

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HarperCollins, Sep 17, 2013 - Fiction - 448 pages
6 Reviews

"Is it a crime to live? To create happiness for yourself through your own work?"

How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the hard realities of such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the transformative power of art, history, and love in the lives of creative women.

It's midnight on St. James Court, at the heart of which is a beautiful fountain sculpture of Venus rising from the sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished the first draft of her novel about renowned painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, a survivor of the French Revolution who was hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Although the manuscript is complete, its author remains haunted by Élisabeth's experiences, which are revealed in Sena Jeter Naslund's ingenious novel-within-a-novel interleaved with the chronicle of a day in the life of Kathryn Callaghan. Despite being separated by time, place, and culture, Kathryn and Élisabeth possess similar gifts and burdens: uncompromising aesthetic codes, fierce pride in their artistic expression, and unwavering love and sacrifice for their children. And before the next midnight rolls around, Kathryn will have confronted personal danger as frightening as the butchery that Élisabeth faced during the Reign of Terror. Each woman will be called upon and tested; each will, like Venus, rise triumphantly above the expectations of her world.

In this, her compelling and intimate ninth book, Sena Jeter Naslund presents the reader with an eye-opening alternate vision of The Artist: not an angry young man but a woman of age and hard-won experience who has created for herself, against enormous odds, a fulfilling life of thoroughly realized achievement.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AntT - LibraryThing

I wanted to love this book (I teach Vigeé-LeBrun), but I only liked it. It seemed unfinished to me. Both stories, that of the novelist and that of the 18th century painter, Vigeé-LeBrun, felt ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Alphawoman - LibraryThing

Yuck. Got to page 60 or so and thought "no way am I going on!!" First of all it moved like frozen molasses and the character Katheryn was unlikable. The second book "Portrait..." was better but having ... Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Sena Jeter Naslund is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisville and program director of the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in Writing. A winner of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writers, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, which have been translated into eight languages and published in Australia and the United Kingdom, where her book Ahab's Wife was a finalist for the Orange Prize. Those who've read her novel Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette will recognize the character of Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun from that book. Naslund lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

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