This was a complicated and fascinating book about art and how difficult the relationship can be between mothers and daughters.. I really believed in this story and it’s portrayal of the difficulties in making art. I was not surprised to read that the author had been an art writer, because of the detail and truth in the process of creating. Set in the art world of NYC, Lisa is a painter in the Abstract Expressionist era of the 1950s. She starts to be sidelined when she becomes pregnant, but truly believes she can be a mother and still create great art. Studying in NYC is a dream and I think she really felt she’d found her people, her tribe. Fellow artist and lover Hank, goes up against her for an exhibition and is surprised when it’s Lisa’s work that really gets noticed. We then jump to 1966.
When her daughter Rouge was born, she found herself butting up against the male dominated art world, surprised to find it quite conventional after all. I loved the feminist take on what we imagine to be a fairly free and bohemian world. It was an area of life that I’d imagined had less barriers. I really felt for Lisa and understood her disillusionment when her ex-lover is suddenly a new darling of the movement. Especially considering how similar their work is. Psychologically this has created a resentment between mother and daughter, even if it isn’t expressed or acknowledged. Lisa starts to drink more heavily and take risks. She teaches in college to pay the bills. When her daughter Rouge takes an interest in art years later, she chooses photography as her medium. She finds a mentor in Ben Fuller, who happens to be one of Lisa’s old lovers. This acknowledgment from a male member of the art world adds another layer of resentment between mother and daughter. If Rouge’s photography is going to be noticed, how will Liza cope? What lengths will she go to in order to deal with these negative feelings? Would she consider sabotage? When she was pregnant Liza could have chosen another road, she could have walked through a door of her choosing and be living a different life. She hasn’t intentionally made Rouge feel unwanted, but that choice held within it so much self-sacrifice, that’s it’s possible some some unconscious negativity and even anger has come through to her daughter. Now her daughter is going to take the acclaim that Liza felt was rightfully hers. Rouge is also angry, about the drinking and the revolving door of lovers who come in and out. She was very surprised to find one of them had things to teach her. If her photography is good enough, she can imagine doors opening for her. It could be an escape from home and her mother.
I loved that all those elements and difficulties of a woman creating are here in Lisa’s world - they haven’t really gone away, because I still feel guilty if I’m writing instead of doing the housework or seeing friends. Writing isn’t seen as real work until you’re published. but if you can’t write that never happens. Everyone thinks it can just be moved to tomorrow. However, the difference between the 1950s and the 1960s is a huge one culturally, There’s the pill for a start, leaving some women in charge of their own fertility. Between that and the more permissive attitudes in society it’s clear to see why Liza would feel there is a huge gap between their generations. Rouge is free to network and really sell herself. She can create her own image, whereas if you’re a mother you already have one. The author depicts the artistic journey so well - the imposter syndrome, the dreams, the crushing reality and self-sabotage are all seen in these women. It shows beautifully how mothers and daughters misunderstand each other, not knowing the cultural difference for their generation, not understanding the sacrifices and the love behind them, It’s about that distance between mothers and daughters, a distance that can only be bridged through openness and honesty, as well as space and time. This was fascinating and psychologically complex. I really enjoyed it.
Original review: https://www.netgalley.co.uk/book/229337/review/590245
by NetGalley review
This story follows artist Liza Baker who is on her way up in the art world. Then she becomes pregnant. Liza decides she can do both, meaning a successful career as an artist and raise a child. Had this story been a later time, she might've had a shot, but this story takes place in the 1950s. Liza takes a job teaching at a college and realizes just how much men dominate the art world. At the same time, a former boyfriend gains a lot of fame creating work that is all but a copy of her's, only fueling more of her frustration and anger. Her daughter, Rouge, as she grows, develops a taste for photography and she's quite good at it. The success that Rouge has creates a competition between mother and daughter, ultimately creating a terrible dynamic. A great take on the mother-daughter trope. I do recommend this book.
Original review: https://www.netgalley.co.uk/book/229337/review/360181
by NetGalley review