Greetings dear readers and friends. I’m very excited to have a book giveaway for on the blog today. And what a book it is! Renoir’s Dancer, by Catherine Hewitt, transported me clear across France – from a small village in Limoges to the bohemian streets of Montemartre in Paris; and from the circus to the intimate chambers of some of the world’s most famous artists. From the title, I had expected a somewhat whimsical tale of a captivating beauty who managed to discreetly grab the attention of artists like Renoir. Well, not in the least.
The story is actually a highly-detailed, richly told, account of a fearless young lady who literally pulled herself up by her bootstraps to find her place in 19th century France. And to say that this period in French history was largely male-dominated would be putting it lightly. Our heroine, born out of wedlock in quite impoverished conditions, emerges as a force to be reckoned with that would give any modern-day feminists a run for their money.
When her mother moves to Paris to try to make a better life for the family, Marie-Clémentine (who later changes her name to Maria and then Suzanne) grows up on the streets of Montemartre, running barefoot with her fellow companions and frequenting the cafés made famous by the likes of Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Degas – to name a few.
She later runs circles around the sisters at the local Catholic school, who profess to being incapable of keeping up with her acrobatics. But soon such “unruly” behavior, and literal turns and flips around the school courtyard, lead Marie-Clémentine to an actual calling in life. Still a teenager, she becomes one of the star acts in Molière’s circus – one of the most popular spectacles in all of Paris at the time.
As someone who shuns rules and regulations, this sort of eclectic lifestyle fits perfectly with Marie-Clémentine’s personality and she thrives in the circus environment. Tragically, all is cut short as she suffers a fall which, although not life-altering, erases all her chances of ever performing again.
But as with all inventive and tenacious women before her, Marie-Clémentine decides to reinvent herself as an artist’s model; secretly training herself to became an artist and gain access to their world.
And then things really get interesting. As the author writes, “Each artist saw in her what they wanted, but she belonged to no one”.
I hope I’ve been able to pique your interest because this is indeed one interesting tale and one extraordinary woman.
To see what adventures and exploits Marie-Clémentine gets up to next, the book is now out on Amazon.com and the publishers are giving away 1 free copy of the book to Belle Provence readers.
BOOK GIVEAWAY ————–
To enter to win a free copy of Renoir’s Dancer, please tell us what inspires you about France in the comments below.
One winner will be chosen on Monday, March 19th at 12pm (EST) using Random.org.
Thank you for your participation and good luck!