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Publisher's Summary

Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir's masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir's future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War. Parisians were bursting with a desire for pleasure and a yearning to create something extraordinary out of life. Renoir shared these urges and took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love, all the while facing issues of loyalty and the diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group.

Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models, and using settings in Paris and on the Seine, Vreeland illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, she paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs in a brilliant portrait of her own.

©2007 Susan Vreeland; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., and Books on Tape. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"A carefully constructed historical novel." (Booklist)
"Vivid....Vreeland achieves a detailed and surprising group portrait, individualized and immediate." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    45
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Performance

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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    33
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    4
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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Keith
  • Asheville, NC, USA
  • 09-16-07

Well Worth the Time

Entirely enthralling historical novel about Renoir, his famous painting and the lives of each of the models who posed for "Luncheon of the Boating Party". By the end of the book you care for each of the characters and hope the story will never end. An entertaining insight into the "modern life" of impressionistic-era France, this well-researched tale will leave you wanting more. Do yourself a favor and carry a copy of the painting with you when you listen, so you can identify each model and follow the references Vreeland makes to the landscape, still life and mysterious 14th figure within the painting.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

great book- great narrator

Great audio book-- in part because Karen White, the narrator is so perfect for this book. This book brings alive Paris in the 1880's still recovering from the Prussian war. It had great detail intertwined with a great love story. Overall, a great audio book. The listener needs an appreciation of Impressionist art to get the full benefit from it, however.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Superb

So entertaining and full of history of art, persons, a country, war, peace and French culture.

Full of love and passion. Emotion of all kinds depicted so well as to elicit them by myself.

I enjoyed this book and learned so much including that which it inspired me to research via Internet images and You Tube documentaries. Not that the book lacked. Rather it caused me to want more. I had so much fun. It's a rich story too as I found myself able to go back and re-listen to parts. I rarely do this ever. There are after all so many books and so little time!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • peter
  • melbourne, Australia
  • 08-20-12

La Vie Moderne

This is a great imaginative journey into the Paris of the impressionists. It could be better. Some of the characters are annoying. The history is clunky. The relationships are sometimes overwrought.

However, the hero- Renoir- is intriguing, funny and compelling. When he is around the book is great. Most of his friends are lovable. The real stars are French food, Paris and the materials Renoir and the others used to create wonderful paintings. So if you think you like (or could like) Paris, food and art, I would give it a go. If not, my commiserations. I've listened twice and can't quite decide if I really like it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nancy
  • Denver, CO, USA
  • 06-14-08

bad narration

The story is OK but the narrator drove me to distraction. The fake french accent was appalling.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 06-13-07

A Bit Disappointing

I downloaded this book on the strength of Vreeland's other art-oriented novel (really a collection of interrelated short stories), The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, and because of my interest in the impressionist painters. It starts off slowly and doesn't get much better. The author is undoubtedly trying to replicate the feel of a warm, lazy day on the Seine, just as the painting does, but the style gets old quickly. It also seems that she is impressed with her own research on painting (too many repetitions of colors: rose madder, Prussian blue, etc., over and over and over--I just wanted to SEE the painting after all that). While there are a lot of characters, most of them remain slight and superficial. Go to the Phillips, see the famous painting, and read a biography of Renoir. You'll learn more and enjoy it more.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful story of a beautiful painting

I really enjoyed this book. I am enriched knowing about the passion of Renoir for painting & learning about the lives of the models who posed. Any admirer of Impressionism will want to read this work. I highly recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Writing in the Impressionist Style

Would you try another book from Susan Vreeland and/or Karen White?

Yes

What could Susan Vreeland have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

An image of the painting with the characters names, like a map.

Would you be willing to try another one of Karen White’s performances?

yes

Could you see Luncheon of the Boating Party being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

yes movie

Any additional comments?

Read this as you would view an impressionist painting. Capture the essence of the book through fast reading and lingering on the areas that truly interest you. This is not an "easy read." She really captures the intensity of what it feels like to be an artist and more specifically a painter. I say this from personal knowledge, I am a painter and an MFA.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Great book!

Story was enthralling. Loved it! Having the photo of the painting while I read this was great fun and the painting came alive.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A few French pronunciation corrections

I realize it's difficult to switch between languages smoothly. But I really had issue with Argenteuil, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Montmartre. In other areas the use of French was smooth and fluid.

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  • Overall
  • Lynn
  • 07-26-09

Good story but poor narration

A good story and decent history of the impressionists. However, the narrator murders the French words and names in the story ...her accent is deplorable or, rather, nonexistent. I found this terribly grating!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful