Looooong title, but it makes sense because this is actually two books for the price of one, two completely different novels taking turns with one another, but intertwined rather neatly into one thematic structure.
The book (or books) weave together the lives of two women, about 69 year old Kathryn Morgan, a contemporary writer who has just completed an historic novel about Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, a renowned portrait painter of the late 18th century France. Morgan, who lives in St. James Court in historic Louisville, Kentucky, uses the fountain sculpture located in that district as a focal point and title-piece for the contemporary novel (Fountain), which is told in alternating sections with the historical novel (Portrait) she has supposedly just completed.
I’ll be honest – I initially had some doubts. The first chapters, particularly the Fountain portion, seemed almost too sprawling, too musing, too stream of consciousness. And then I realized I needed to read this as if I were reading Virginia Woolf, as if I were looking inside the characters mind as her thoughts tumbled about freely, read it noticing the really exquisite descriptions of place and person, read it not for plot or action, but for thought and sensation.
Once I made that tiny shift in perspective, I was in love.
I started to love this very personal glimpse into Kathryn’s life, loved the way she thought about life and art, loved the way she paid attention to her beautiful home, her friends, loved the way she examined her own past as she reflected on the artist’s life in her historical novel. And the story of Vigee-Le Brun was captivating from the beginning, as it traced this artist’s life from her earliest childhood until almost the moment of her death as an old woman.
Sena Naslund Jeter has written a very emotionally evocative look at an artist’s lifetime, using these two women from completely different times in history, but with very similar gifts and burdens. Both take great pride in their artistic expression and both have an unwavering love for their children. Both are willing to sacrifice much to complete their art. Both are intriguing and sympathetic characters, whose reflections on a lifetime of artistic achievements make for compelling reading.
Sena Jeter Naslund has written eight previous works of fiction, and since I’ve not read any of them, I will definitely be looking up her backlist. She teaches at the University of Lousiville, and resides in St. James Court – with her own view of The Fountain.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the introduction to this author and the opportunity to read this lovely novel.
Connect with the author on Facebook.
Other stops on the TLC Tour.
Buy the book at Amazon.