Blogtober hasn’t quite worked out for me this year. Real life would not have it so, and so that commitment, made to myself, must be put off until another time. Maybe I’ll take part in Blogtober in March. Nobody will see that coming. Happily, I am not so busy that I cannot honour blogging commitments of a smaller nature. Today’s post is a book review for France Book Tours. It’s nice to do a little writing here and there. O dear; “nice” is such an offensively bland word for what I’m trying to say here. Clearly, I need to consider a post on the art of writing at some point, but today is all about the art of rebellion. As a secondary school librarian, I have become accustomed to the daily tempests of the adolescent life, so Gabbi seemed a rather familiar character, albeit with very different concerns.
I have tried not to put too many spoilers into my review, but it does include discussion of plot points, particularly as regards the story’s ending, so you may wish to skim past it to the giveaway (if you’re in Canada). The review also discusses an attempted rape which takes place in the story.
The Art of Rebellion
By Brenda Joyce Leahy
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing
Publication date: : June 15, 2016
Page numbers: 254 pages
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Suspense
Buy the book:
(provided by author)
Released June 15, 2016, by Rebelight Publishing, this beautifully written, lush piece drops you into tumultuous and breathtaking late 19th century Paris. Sixteen year old Gabrielle dreams of becoming an artist but her ambitious parents agree to an arranged marriage to an aging Baron. In protest, she runs away from her provincial home of Laval to Paris, the City of Light, intending to live with her grandmother and pursue her passion for art. Her bold plan disintegrates as she arrives in Paris to discover her grandmother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Alone in the capital, Gabrielle wonders who to trust: her new artist friends or the handsome but irritating stranger she met on the train, who just might be stalking her. Gabrielle’s pride, ambition and impulsive nature thrust her into Paris’ underbelly of betrayal and abuse. Will she find the courage to begin a new life on her own terms?
The Art of Rebellion was on the Calgary Bestselling Fiction list in August 2016.
I decided to review this book because, in proper Austrian nun/nanny style, it let me indulge in some of my favourite things – Paris, the Belle Époque, and art. As I mentioned above, I’m a secondary school librarian, so I’m always looking out for new YA books to add to the library collections. This book
The Art of Rebellion is an entertaining, interesting book, with lots going on, a good read which you can get through within a day or so. I liked the central protagonist, Gabrielle, from the start – Leahy quickly establishes the character’s independent spirit and her naivety. The use of flashbacks to establish the reason for Gabrielle’s presence on the train is convincing – train journeys are conducive to such reflections, when there is little else to do, so it felt very natural.
Leahy’s style of description really appealed to me; she made scenes and episodes into striking paintings, as with the woman giving a poetry performance at the literary salon:
We headed to the sound and discovered a woman reciting poetry. She wore an unusual outfit of a short crimson tunic over billowy white trousers. Her hair hung freely down her back, and her tiny feet were bare, toenails painted crimson. Heavy black kohl lined her eyes, giving her an exotic appearance.
I did wonder if that was a real-life figure put into the story, as several are mentioned throughout the book – Berthe Morisot, Camille Claudel, La Goulue, Edgar Degas, and Henri Rousseau, to give just a few examples. – or perhaps someone from a painting. The highly detailed descriptions of hairstyles, clothes, parks, different areas of the city, and buildings (inside and out), really brought the Paris of the Belle Époque to life. I could see Gabrielle walking through the streets, sitting in the bars, losing herself in the Louvre.
The camaraderie in the artistic community, particularly the friendship between Julie and Gabrielle, was my favourite part of the story, given how lonely the latter was even when surrounded by her family. I must admit to being very frustrated that Gabrielle continued to listen to Babette, despite the several warnings from those who gave her real help. Had she not done so, had she listened to her instincts, she would not have ended up in the clutches of Gaston Lachance; it seems to me that the plot was leading to this point, as the way to get Gabrielle back to Laval, and that it had to happen, even if it did not seem entirely true to the character. That said, the way in which she fought to stop Lachance raping her, using her brain despite her fear, and her passion, her strength of will, is an excellent example to girls reading the book. It was another demonstration of the determination and strength of will she showed when she agreed to work her way through art school. She rescued herself, and I admire her for it. Philippe’s appearance at this point disappointed me, as it diluted her moment of triumph, and her return to Laval at that point was made inevitable. This should have been the moment at which she found the strength to make a success of her life in Paris, with her group of artist friends, with Julie instead of Babette. She shows upon her return, during her conversation with her sister, that she has a good understanding of her own capabilities and strength, and that she has learned a great deal about life from her time away. That was a lovely moment in the story. As regards the ending, I’m still not sure how I feel about it, as much as I’m glad that Gabrielle did in the end manage to get her opportunity. She eventually regained her passion for art and for life. I’m going to need to read it again to see what I think of how things progressed from that point to the ending.
It may not seem like it from some of my remarks immediately above, but I did like the book, as I said at the beginning. My main issue is that it is too short to do justice to all that Leahy includes in it. There is no room to give the many threads and themes the time and attention which they deserve – feminism, female suffrage, asylums, the art world, prostitution, technology, and dementia, to give just a few examples, need more discussion within the story. Leahy has clearly done some very thorough research, and a longer book would have meant that she could put more of it into the story, thus fleshing out Gabrielle’s understanding of the world and character development, and giving her more options, in addition to making the other characters more well-developed, richer, and more present in the text. It would have allowed more time to be spent on Gabrielle’s family in particular, perhaps during her absence, as I felt that the changes in their characters were more told than shown on her return home. My experience of the reading habits of The Art of Rebellion‘s target audience is that said audience is definitely not daunted by a weighty tome. I would definitely read a longer novel by Brenda Joyce Leahy, and will be looking at getting this one into my school libraries in the meantime.
If you live in Canada, you can enter the giveaway here on my blog or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. 2 people will be chosen at random to win a copy of the book.
Visit each blogger on the tour. Tweeting about the giveaway every day of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time![just follow the directions on the entry-form]
About the author
Brenda Joyce Leahy loves historical fiction and thinks she was born a century too late but can’t imagine her life without computers or cell phones. So, perhaps, she arrived in the world at just the right moment to tell this story. She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta. After over 20 years practising law, she has returned to her first love of writing fiction. She is a member of several writing organizations,including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers website. Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and leads a YA/MG writers’ critique group in Calgary.
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