Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland
Source: eARC from NetGalley/ audio from library
Why I Picked This Book: Susan Vreeland has been on my list of authors to try for awhile and I enjoy books set on the homefront during war.
Cons: The reason I'm starting with cons is because this book started off on the wrong foot for me. For at least the first few chapters I really didn't think I was going to make it through. There's a lot of talk about Lisette's Grandfather-in-law's paintings. There was a reason why when I had to take an art history class in college I took the class that involved artifacts versus the one about paintings. I'm definitely not artistic nor do I fully appreciate art in the way that Lisette and many of the characters do. If I had just been doing the print book I'm not sure I would've been able to keep going. Basically it seemed to me that it was a moody old man reminiscing about other moody old men and expecting these two people to drop everything in their lives to sit and look at paintings. In a house with no plumbing or even an outhouse no less. Lisette annoyed me with her reaction when her husband Andre hid the paintings. She spent so much time being angry at him especially as he was leaving for war that I wanted to shake her.
Pros: But then, just when I was about to give up, something happened. Andre left and Lisette for the first time in her life was completely on her own, away from Paris, away from everyone and everything she knew, but completely determined to get by. As as time went by Lisette began to grow up. She becomes resilient and self-reliant which only deepens when news comes of Andre's death. As time goes on the paintings become less about the paintings themselves and more about what they represent both the people and French culture. The characters are complex and don't always act like I wanted them too but for the most part I felt like their actions were authentic. When a long time friend of Lisette and Andre tells her something rather awful her first reaction is to run away from him in horror but then slowly realizes the truth of his actions and reacts with kindness. I was fascinated by her search for the paintings and watching France lowly recover from the hardships of war.
Overall: I really loved this book and I really didn't expect to. After the first few chapters I really believed this was only for those who really "get" art and that isn't me. It ended up being a wonderful story about perseverance, love, loss, forgiveness and redemption peopled with flawed and complex characters.
Audio Note: The audio edition I listened to was narrated by Kim Bubbs and once I got used to her rather enthusiastic French accents I very much enjoyed her reading. She did the male voices nicely and her tone changed with the mood of the book. I found the audio version more enjoyable than the print partly because it kept me going even when the story was filled with are details and also made it easier to comprehend because I wasn't trying to figure out the French place names.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely! I'm really looking forward to reading her book Clara and Mr. Tiffany.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely. If you're not an art lover the beginning may be a bit slow but the rest of the book more than makes up for it.