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The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet

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Set in the richly drawn art world of nineteenth-century Paris, this stunning historical novel imagines Édouard Manet’s last days in an indelible snapshot of genius, illness, and the dying embers of passion. 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. Set in the richly drawn art world of nineteenth-century Paris, this stunning historical novel imagines Édouard Manet’s last days in an indelible snapshot of genius, illness, and the dying embers of passion. 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. He travels for healing respites in the French countryside and finds inspiration in nature―a cloud of dragonflies, peonies blanketed by the morning dew. Back in Paris, the artist holds court in his studio and meets a mysterious muse, Suzon. Entranced by Suzon’s cool blue eyes, he decides to paint his final masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, life-sized―and wagers his health to complete it. In a sensual portrait of Manet’s last years, illustrated with his own sketches, Maureen Gibbon offers a vibrant testament to the endurance of the artistic spirit.


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Set in the richly drawn art world of nineteenth-century Paris, this stunning historical novel imagines Édouard Manet’s last days in an indelible snapshot of genius, illness, and the dying embers of passion. 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. Set in the richly drawn art world of nineteenth-century Paris, this stunning historical novel imagines Édouard Manet’s last days in an indelible snapshot of genius, illness, and the dying embers of passion. 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. He travels for healing respites in the French countryside and finds inspiration in nature―a cloud of dragonflies, peonies blanketed by the morning dew. Back in Paris, the artist holds court in his studio and meets a mysterious muse, Suzon. Entranced by Suzon’s cool blue eyes, he decides to paint his final masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, life-sized―and wagers his health to complete it. In a sensual portrait of Manet’s last years, illustrated with his own sketches, Maureen Gibbon offers a vibrant testament to the endurance of the artistic spirit.

30 review for The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    I really liked this novel. It didn’t read as fast as I thought it would because I kept stopping to look up his paintings, or facts from his life, or medical information from the time. I would highly recommend this to all art lovers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Told in the form of a notebook, this diary of the later years of Edouard Manet is both lovely and sad. Sad in that his later years are plagued with syphilis and the accompanying decline, but lovely in the memories reflected. Manet is determined to finish a final work- A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (coincidentally one of my favorite works of the age). We read of his attempts to paint while suffering severe health issues and traveling back and forth between a sanitarium where he receives treatment a Told in the form of a notebook, this diary of the later years of Edouard Manet is both lovely and sad. Sad in that his later years are plagued with syphilis and the accompanying decline, but lovely in the memories reflected. Manet is determined to finish a final work- A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (coincidentally one of my favorite works of the age). We read of his attempts to paint while suffering severe health issues and traveling back and forth between a sanitarium where he receives treatment and Paris, where he works. The allusions to nature are lovely, as are the actual sketches reproduced in the notebook. I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for a review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    A DRC was provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and dazzled review. A lovely and poignant journey through the imagined musings of Edouard Manet as he slowly died from syphilis. What could have been a mawkish and wrongfooted expose of yet another Great Painter Gone Wrong is an engaging book full of insightful musings on Manet's relationship to his health, family, friends, women, models, and most of all, the scenes and objects that inspired his revolutionary works. Most touching are the smal A DRC was provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and dazzled review. A lovely and poignant journey through the imagined musings of Edouard Manet as he slowly died from syphilis. What could have been a mawkish and wrongfooted expose of yet another Great Painter Gone Wrong is an engaging book full of insightful musings on Manet's relationship to his health, family, friends, women, models, and most of all, the scenes and objects that inspired his revolutionary works. Most touching are the small sketches by Manet scattered throughout the book that continually underscore how he saw art in most things, and was able to capture images with his prodigious skills even as the public struggled to accept his vision. The journal as he struggles with pain, terror, loneliness, and a longstanding fear of failure and disdain from his critics is also full of memories, appreciations of the servants who care for him and the friends who try to buoy his spirits, a few scalding appraisals of critics who will never understand his art and most of all, joy and awe in the talent and inspiration that sustains him as all his powers fail. Though the book celebrates the huge effort of creation of his last great work, Un bar aux Folies Bergeres, I especially appreciated Manet's delight in flowers, fruits and other seemingly ordinary objects that were the subjects of his some of his greatest late still lifes. Kudos to Gibbons for her delicate and profound understanding of Manet, who could be a self-absorbed and selfish man of his times, but whose humanity shines forth in the light of his genius and the art he left behind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    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 reader 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Maureen Gibbon's "The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet" is an exceptional and nuanced novel. Written from Manet's perspective, it is a journal of the last three years of his life as he reflects on his art, the women around him, his insecurities and choices while his body becomes more and more ravaged by syphilis. Through all of this he perseveres to create his last masterpiece "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère". Gibbon fully embodies Manet and how he views the world. It is one thing to recreate to a vo Maureen Gibbon's "The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet" is an exceptional and nuanced novel. Written from Manet's perspective, it is a journal of the last three years of his life as he reflects on his art, the women around him, his insecurities and choices while his body becomes more and more ravaged by syphilis. Through all of this he perseveres to create his last masterpiece "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère". Gibbon fully embodies Manet and how he views the world. It is one thing to recreate to a voice, but she also captures a way of seeing and feeling that feels authentic and vulnerable; it is finely-wrought. Sometimes I forgot that I was reading fiction-- fully believing that I was reading about a man settling the score with himself. As one of the forefathers of Impressionism, Manet's work was repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon. His subject and style was much too scandalous for the demimonde, and his art challenges the viewer to recognize hard truths about their lives: "When people must decide something for themselves, they panic. They want instead a story that is immediately recognizable, and that immediacy is key. Yet in the truly modern, you sometimes have to take the time and decipher. The time in front of a work is crucial. Yet that makes people uncomfortable, too They have to stand in front of a naked woman with no uplifting myth or ideal-- someone they might see in the street. They have to look upon a desperate man alone in a room, someone who looks like them or someone they know. And that is unbearable" (163). This put me in mind of the author, Maureen Gibbon. There are no accolades of awards or being ranked on any bestsellers list. I, as one who loves Manet and who seeks out books about him, have never heard of her before, despite this being her second book about him. This book asks the reader to confront mortality and aging and a time when our best years are behind us. It is not done in a style that is meant to entertain (while it is deeply rewarding). Yet, it is as fine, if not finer, of a book as those by blockbuster writers such as Amor Towles or Nobel Prize winners like Olga Tokarczuk. Like the attendees at the Salon, we still flock to the popular while those with potent truths to tell are overlooked. Highly recommend this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Quiet, Touching, Fictional Account of Manet’s Last Years This is a fictional diary by Manet while he discusses his last three years and the women he drew. I found it touching.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne LaPierre

    I was fortunate to receive an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of this book, which will be published in September 2021, from the publisher via a library conference. I finished it in just a few sittings and enjoyed it very much. The novel is written as if it is a series of journal entries by the painter Manet during the final years of his life. He is stricken with syphilis but still at the height of his painting career. It is about falling in love with everyday things and moments as only one realizing t I was fortunate to receive an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of this book, which will be published in September 2021, from the publisher via a library conference. I finished it in just a few sittings and enjoyed it very much. The novel is written as if it is a series of journal entries by the painter Manet during the final years of his life. He is stricken with syphilis but still at the height of his painting career. It is about falling in love with everyday things and moments as only one realizing the briefness of his remaining time can fully appreciate. Just as one who paints from life must notice the subtleties of his subjects, even if they are lemons or peonies, Manet, while suffering from progressive disability and pain due to syphilis, sees moments of each day with a new awareness of their significance. Some of Manet's sketches and other illustrations are included in the book to add to the sense of it as a journal. As an art school grad, I sometimes feel that books about painting and painters don't quite hit the mark, but in this case, the writing rings true to me and is believable. The author seems to have done her homework about Manet's life and art and the time period in which he lived. The best historical fiction is thoroughly enjoyable while making you feel as if you are learning something about another time and place. The best biographies (even fictionalized ones, like this) make you feel as if you are getting inside another person's head and understanding their perspective. This book does both. I think it will be very well-received.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    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 ti 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    A perfect book for Francophiles...especially with "artistic" leanings. Although fictional, I felt, based on the author's use of some exceptional sources, this read as an actual diary of the great artist's last years. The desperation due to his illness, his determination to continue his work and the intimacy he felt with his many muses truly read as a diary that he added to as he continued the inevitable downward spiral. I appreciated the author's casual style and how much of the Parisian "everyd A perfect book for Francophiles...especially with "artistic" leanings. Although fictional, I felt, based on the author's use of some exceptional sources, this read as an actual diary of the great artist's last years. The desperation due to his illness, his determination to continue his work and the intimacy he felt with his many muses truly read as a diary that he added to as he continued the inevitable downward spiral. I appreciated the author's casual style and how much of the Parisian "everyday" life found its way into the diary. An illuminating read into the life and processes of a true genius. Highly recommended!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Micheline

    A Creative Approach What a creative approach to write a novel. All along I felt I was reading Manet's personal anecdotes. It is a glimpse in the last three years of a man with pain and physical limitations but still an artist. There are descriptions of how the pain limits Manet's whereabouts and the choices of his subjects for sketching, but he discovers small joys in nature that gave him a sense of purpose. What I found the most interesting in this notebook was Manet, the painter. The painting "A A Creative Approach What a creative approach to write a novel. All along I felt I was reading Manet's personal anecdotes. It is a glimpse in the last three years of a man with pain and physical limitations but still an artist. There are descriptions of how the pain limits Manet's whereabouts and the choices of his subjects for sketching, but he discovers small joys in nature that gave him a sense of purpose. What I found the most interesting in this notebook was Manet, the painter. The painting "A Bar at the Folies-Bergères" is an example of what he wants to paint, why he paints it and how he paints it. I also learned about the world surrounding the life of an artist in Paris in the early 1880s with the competition, the critics, the accolades and the honors. It was a slow read at the beginning, but I found it worth reading till the end. I studied art in college. Thank you BookBrowse and Netgalley for a free ebook in return for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    mallory sutton

    This told the story of Édouard Manet’s final 3 years after his syphilis diagnosis and his progress toward his final work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Got this as an ARC from work and thoroughly enjoyed the diary-style entries — the varying degree of detail and length of each entry was reflective of Manet’s health and intensity of pain that day, and I very much plan on doing more research into his models and other works. This would still be a good read if you are unfamiliar with his work and his This told the story of Édouard Manet’s final 3 years after his syphilis diagnosis and his progress toward his final work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Got this as an ARC from work and thoroughly enjoyed the diary-style entries — the varying degree of detail and length of each entry was reflective of Manet’s health and intensity of pain that day, and I very much plan on doing more research into his models and other works. This would still be a good read if you are unfamiliar with his work and history, however. Gibbon had Manet detail what he could with his limited mobility — confined to his chair, his studio, yet still discussing the beauty of every day items and the most “average” of individuals to study and paint, such as Suzon. Hope and despair wrung through Manet in his final entries and, just through knowing the final outcome, it was an emotional journey from start to finish.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    The French impressionist Edouard Manet is in great pain from the debilitating effects of syphilis. The water torture and massage treatments offer more pain and gives him grief but so does the rejection of patrons or art critics. He finally needs to paint the career defining painting but will his health let him finish it. This is an art lesson on how to view the world, a business lesson from someone who is used to begging for work and a lesson of finding beauty in nature or a lost love. Written i The French impressionist Edouard Manet is in great pain from the debilitating effects of syphilis. The water torture and massage treatments offer more pain and gives him grief but so does the rejection of patrons or art critics. He finally needs to paint the career defining painting but will his health let him finish it. This is an art lesson on how to view the world, a business lesson from someone who is used to begging for work and a lesson of finding beauty in nature or a lost love. Written in diary style it is easily enjoyed in snippets or devouring it whole. I enjoyed the sketches that were included that were able to capture so much detail in a few simple lines. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Dunlap

    This novel presents the last days of the artist Édouard Manet, as he struggles with the effects of syphilis and deals with latter-day recognition and honor. The text is given as a series of entries Manet makes in a notebook, beginning as something of a diary, interspersed with a sketch or two, but gradually becoming a written gallery of his observations about art and the world around him. -- I enjoyed this book, but I believe it might be more comprehensible to someone with a greater understandin This novel presents the last days of the artist Édouard Manet, as he struggles with the effects of syphilis and deals with latter-day recognition and honor. The text is given as a series of entries Manet makes in a notebook, beginning as something of a diary, interspersed with a sketch or two, but gradually becoming a written gallery of his observations about art and the world around him. -- I enjoyed this book, but I believe it might be more comprehensible to someone with a greater understanding of the details in the life of Manet (perhaps a Who's Who might have been helpful...??).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bozhena Levine

    I received an ARC of this book from W. W. Norton; it is scheduled to be published in September 2021. This novel, written in a form of diary entries, recounts the last 3 years of Edouard Manet’s life as he suffers from the complications of syphilis. Manet jots down his observations, reflections, and memories, finding inspiration in nature. At times lyrical and sad, this is a well-researched portrait of the artist in (almost) his own voice.

  15. 5 out of 5

    PeggySue

    This fictionalized diary covers the last three years of the life of Edouard Manet. It was very poignant because of his physical suffering but uplifting because of his dedication to art and the beauty he saw in everything. It made me want to read some of the books the author referenced for this work of fiction. There was a line from the book that I particularly appreciated: "At a certain point, truth must give way to the illusion of truth." This fictionalized diary covers the last three years of the life of Edouard Manet. It was very poignant because of his physical suffering but uplifting because of his dedication to art and the beauty he saw in everything. It made me want to read some of the books the author referenced for this work of fiction. There was a line from the book that I particularly appreciated: "At a certain point, truth must give way to the illusion of truth."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bailey

    An insightful look inside the mind of the famous artist, I kept waiting for each page to see how he was doing with his illness and how he was going to select what to sketch and paint. His thoughts on his contemporary friends was very interesting and at times amusing. The diary form of writing his is masterful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    Artist Edouard Manet kept a notebook during the latter part of his life where he detailed his suffering, loves and his art. He was suffering from complications of syphilis and sought water therapy in France's countryside, hoping to find a cure. While he didn't find a cure he found solace and inspiration in nature which abounds in this diary like novel. A must read for those who love art and nature. * I read an advance copy and was not compensated. Artist Edouard Manet kept a notebook during the latter part of his life where he detailed his suffering, loves and his art. He was suffering from complications of syphilis and sought water therapy in France's countryside, hoping to find a cure. While he didn't find a cure he found solace and inspiration in nature which abounds in this diary like novel. A must read for those who love art and nature. * I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evelin

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Chaitin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Cleary

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  23. 5 out of 5

    Faith

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  30. 5 out of 5

    Didi

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