The Girl from the Lighthouse
GENRE: Historical Literary Romance
The Girl From the Lighthouse tells the compelling story of Emma Dobbins.
Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she was raised by her father, a lighthouse keeper at Point Conception in California, where early on she discovers her artistic talent. At the age of 17, Emma travels to Paris with a chaperone, to attend art school but is separated from the chaperone when the woman becomes ill. Emma arrives alone in Paris with no money, no language skills, and no friends. A chance meeting with a young working girl in the train station becomes her first Parisian friend.
The setting is Paris in the 1860s-70s, the start of the Belle Èpoque. France soon is involved in the Franco/Prussian War and the Commune Uprising; difficult times for Emma and all Frenchmen. Initially rejected by art schools, her determination keeps her moving toward her goal in the art world, where the Impressionists are starting to change the world. Frenchmen fall in love with her beautiful face and lustrous dark hair. Some wanted to paint her, others to court her, but either way, she does not abide by the rules they try to impose on her because she never learned them. She grows into an accomplished artist but never gives up her own principles... even when someone steals something precious to her and she fights to get it back.
The story is told in the first person, present tense, allowing the reader to enter the story and feel a part of it as it unfolds, sharing with Emma her highs and lows, loves and rejections, all focused in the art world of Paris. The novel is filled with vivid characters, both fictional and real people, and the story unfolds gracefully from the 1870s until 1912, just prior to the start of WWI.
"It's been several months," I tell Berthe Morisot, "and I still copy with pad and pencil and sometimes watercolors. I think I have learned a great deal, but I'm still not ready for oils."
"You should try," she encourages me. "Jacque-Louis David is a good artist for you to copy. His portraits are beautifully executed, especially the one of Madame Recamier you are working on. Portraits like that are the kind of commissions you are likely to get when you are ready."
"There is always demand for portraits of wives and children that are best done by women artists."
I study the wine in my glass, using the pause to consider Berthe's recommendation. "I hope to paint landscapes one day," I tell her.
"Difficult for a woman," she replies. "Traveling alone to paint a landscape is often..." She pauses, "How do I say, looked down upon? There are not many buyers for the work of a woman landscape artist.
"I want to be free to paint whatever I want."
She cuts a slice of cheese from the wedge on her plate and adds it to a piece of baguette before taking a sip from her glass. She looks at me with her doleful dark eyes the whole time. "That can be difficult," she says at last. "Consider your decision carefully. It is easier for us to paint in a boudoir than side-by-side in a world with men." She pauses again and picks at a piece of ham.
Feeling frustrated, and looking for a response that won't offend my friend, I stab my fork at a mushroom. "It seems to me women in Paris have only limited freedom. Do you find it that way, Berthe?"
"I have never thought much about it, but yes, I do. It's just the way life is for women.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Willard Thompson is an award-winning historical fiction and romance writer living in Montecito, California with his wife Jo. His newest historical romance, THE GIRL FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE was published in early 2019. His previously published three novels of historical fiction DREAM HELPER DELFINA'S GOLD, and THEIR GOLDEN DREAMS are part of his CHRONICLES OF CALIFORNIA trilogy. The Independent Publishers 2009 Book Awards selected DREAM HELPER for a gold medal as the best fiction in the Western/Pacific Region.
Thompson is a past president of the board of directors of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. He is a native of Manhasset, New York and a graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Willard-Thompson/e/B00UCFSMDU
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The Girl from the Lighthouse is the first book I have read by Willard Thompson and it definitely will not be the last. I found this historical to be so well written and full of vivid details of the setting and era, that I felt as though I was right there in Paris with Emma. I enjoyed her story.
I give The Girl from the Lighthouse four and a half stars. Readers who love books set in Paris prior to World War I. I recommend it.
I received this book from the author. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.