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Publisher's Summary

With unprecedented access to newly discovered sources, Donna M. Lucey illuminates the lives of four extraordinary women painted by the iconic high-society portraitist John Singer Sargent. With uncanny clairvoyance, Sargent's portraits hint at the mysteries, passions, and tragedies that unfolded in his subjects' lives.

Sequestered in a fantasy-land castle in the remote Rocky Mountains, Elsie Palmer carried on a labyrinthine love life; Elizabeth Chanler stepped into a maze of infidelity with her best friend's husband; as the veiled image of Sally Fairchild - beautiful, commanding, and poison-tongued - emerged on Sargent's canvas, the power of his artistry lured her sister Lucia into an ill-fated life in art; shrewd, iron-willed Isabella Stewart Gardner collected both art and young men. Born to unimaginable wealth, these women lived on an operatic scale, and their letters and diaries create a rich depiction of the Gilded Age and the acclaimed but secretive painter whose canvases defined the era.

©2017 Donna M. Lucey (P)2017 HighBridge, A Division of Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Bust for a big Sargent fan!

I expected the lives of these women to be filled with intrigue, excitement, or challenges. I found myself skipping chapters because they became so boring.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • BB
  • 11-16-17

Fascinating Book / Wrong Narrator

This is a well-written story about the lives of women of the Gilded Age who all had their portraits painted by Sargent. The author has done an excellent job of wading through masses of primary documents to give us an intimate portrait of a unique period in history. Unfortunately, the quality of the narration undercuts the writing as the operative approach to the narration is melodramatic and is frustrating to listen to. There is a dismissiveness towards the women inherent in the narration that manifests itself in the officious way in which the narrator chooses to express the heartfelt experiences expressed by these women in their letters and diaries. In other words, the narration makes the writing sound like a soap opera and does not do justice to the poignancy of what is being expressed. Yes, these women lived in an age of excess, but their stories do not deserve to be minimized by the overall tone taken by the narrator. I listened to it all and now intend to buy it in hardcover to have the portraits present as the stories are being told and to reread it without the narrator’s voice in my head.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • J9
  • 04-13-18

Difficult to get past the narration.

I wanted to like this so much more but I kept getting distracted by the narrator’s inflections, style and character voices. A bit too over the top.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • SarahKWR
  • Brooklyn, New York United States
  • 01-08-18

The Gilded Age Comes Alive Through Portraiture

Donna M. Lucey's book illustrates the lives of the women in some of Sargent's most popular portraits. I especially loved learning about Isabella Stewart Gardner and her unique relationship with Sargent. A must-read (or must-listen, rarher) for those interested in the Gilded Age and the powerful families who patronized Sargent and established his reputation while simultaneously using his output to burnish their legacies. My only complaint is that some (but not all) of the French and Italian words are pronounced incorrectly in the reading.