Try these novels that bring art, literature, and history to life.

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Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens
Gaynor Arnold

ARNOLD

At the end of her life, wife of Charles Dickens gave her letters from her husband to their daughter Kate, asking her to donate them to the British Museum, “so the world may know that he loved me once.” This remark inspired the novel.


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Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper
Harriet Scott Chessman

CHESSMAN

Harriet Scott Chessman takes us into the world of Mary Cassatt’s early Impressionist paintings through Mary’s sister Lydia, whom the author sees as Cassatt’s most inspiring muse. Ill with Bright’s disease and conscious of her approaching death, Lydia contemplates her world narrowing.


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Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet
Stephanie Cowell

COWELL

Camille, painter Monet’s muse, best friend, and lover, stayed with him as they suffered the indignities of destitution. But Camille had her own secrets, including one that would pain Monet so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact.


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I Am Madame X: A Novel
Gioia Diliberto

DILIBERTO

When John Singer Sargent unveiled his famous portrait of Virginie Gautreau, its subject’s pose and dress shocked the public and the critics. In this novel, Diliberto tells Virginie’s story, and re-creates her tempestuous personality.


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The Birth of Venus: A Novel
Sarah Dunant

DUNANT

Florence is changing, subject to suppression by the monk Savonarola. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of learning and art and the violence of the monk.


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In the Company of the Courtesan: A Novel
Sarah Dunant

DUNANT

Escaping the sack of Rome in 1527, their stomachs churning on the jewels they swallowed, Fiammetta and her companion, Bucino, head for Venice. But here their partnership comes under threat.


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Leonardo's Swans: A Novel
Karen Essex

ESSEX

Beatrice wants Ludovico to love her, but he seems more taken with her sister Isabella. Isabella hopes to use Ludovico’s desire for her to obtain her a sitting with Ludovico’s court painter, the renowned Leonard da Vinci.


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Keeping the World Away: A Novel
Margaret Forster

FORSTER

Based on the painting, The Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris, this novel recounts the history of the painting and its affects on those who owned it. Forster gives the painting a life of its own, evoking passion, yearning, and hope in those who possess it.


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The Printmaker's Daughter: A Novel
Katherine Govier

GOVIER

Recounting the story of her life, Oei plunges us into the world of nineteenth-century Edo, in which courtesans rub shoulders with poets, warriors consort with actors, and the arts flourish in an unprecedented moment of creative upheaval.


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The Swan Thieves: A Novel
Elizabeth Kostova

KOSTOVA

When painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art, psychiatrist Andrew Marlow finds himself going beyond his own legal boundaries to understand what torments this genius.


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The Paris Wife: A Novel
Paula McLain

MCLAIN

A story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley.


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Gatsby's Girl
Caroline Preston

PRESTON

F. Scott Fizgerald was haunted by his great first love — a socialite named Ginevra. Alluring, capricious, and unavailable, she becomes the inspiration for Gatsby’s Daisy and Isabelle Borge in This Side of Paradise.


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Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Susan Vreeland

VREELAND

A professor invites a colleague to see a Vermeer painting that he has kept secret for decades. But why has he hidden this work? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and to the moment of the work’s inspiration.


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Luncheon of the Boating Party
Susan Vreeland

VREELAND

Vreeland once again focuses on a single painting—Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece, which depicts a gathering of Renoir’s real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models, the novel illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era.


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