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  • Writer's pictureJenny Carless

“I Always Loved You”

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

I’ve spent my evenings for the past week wandering the rain-soaked cobblestones of Paris in the late nineteenth century, following in the footsteps of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. I’ve eavesdropped on evening salons with Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Émile Zola, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and others, privy to the painters’ and writers’ artistic and personal squabbles.

I’ve heard the artists discuss their work—specific paintings I can picture in my mind as I’ve learned what they were trying to accomplish in each. It’s been magic—and it’s all been thanks to Robin Oliveira’s novel, “I Always Loved You.”

The novel explores the fascinating, sometimes humorous, almost always heart-wrenching relationship between Cassatt and Degas. I’m grateful to Oliveira for transporting me back in time and for the beautiful insight into the lives and minds of such genius. And I’m grateful that reading this novel sent me back to my books on French impressionism, where I’ve found some of the paintings Cassatt and Degas discuss, and I’ve navigated the pages with a different appreciation for all the artists I now know a little better.

En Bateau, Le Bain Mary Cassatt, circa 1908
En Bateau, Le Bain Mary Cassatt, circa 1908

Oliveira obviously did a lot of research (which she describes at the end of the book). Still, much—or most—of the details are presumably from her imagination. It worked for me: I believed the struggle between Cassatt and Degas; I commiserated with Morisot and Manet; I rooted for Degas as his eyesight deteriorated.

If losing yourself in Paris amidst the best art of the nineteenth century appeals to you, or if you’d simply like a good love story, go and find this book—and enjoy!

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