5.0 out of 5 stars When Artistic Skill and Societal Morals Collide
By Linda L. McBride November 1, 2012
As learning a new language opens doors to a new culture, this novel provides the reader with a very personal understanding of the lives, the motivations, the drive, the passion, and the constraints of some of the most talented artists of their time. This book is not about art history; rather, it brings these artists vibrantly to life in a compelling and entertaining story. Ms. Paquette’s thorough research, attention to detail, and skillful writing colorfully illustrate the story of French painter James Tissot, a man so talented his paintings fairly leap off the canvas but whose inner demons and drive to succeed fatally collide with societal norms. The book is graced by the addition of beautiful reproductions of paintings that have been woven into the story so that the reader can feel a close connection to each piece of fine art almost as if he or she was in on the secret behind each one. One need not be a student of art to find this book enjoyable. It is, quite simply, a great story backed by well-researched facts. Kudos to Ms. Paquette on a fine inaugural book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brush Strokes on the Artist’s Life Canvas
By Nan R. Cooper January 14, 2013
As an admirer of splendid French art of the 19th and 20th centuries, I often stop to read the details of a particularly compelling painting when visiting art museums. Yet the museum experience scarcely conveys the forces surrounding the artist – world events, personal dramas, the larger societal and political stages – that inform the art. Lucy Paquette’s The Hammock is a lovingly, intelligently rendered story that effectively portrays the teeming, changing world that forged James Tissot’s vision as an artist.
We learn not only of his military service to France during the Franco-Prussian War, but also of his dogged commitment to rebuild his career and fame in Britain after fleeing the violent throes erupting throughout Paris; we learn of the bitter betrayals and jealousies among the artists of his day, many of whom were friends or acquaintances. We learn of his romantic liaisons, desires and disappointments, of his ambitions and heartbreaks as he struggles to achieve critical acclaim (from a morally corrupt but powerful critic) while earning vast sums from the sale of his paintings and prints, often to the “lower class” moneyed tradesmen in a socially stratified British society.
Ms. Paquette, who painstakingly researched the life of James Tissot, has filled her novel with lyrical, insightful, lively dialogue that breathes life into its subjects and allows the reader to experience the social, political and cultural transformations and upheavals that shaped Tissot’s world. Importantly, we meet the mysterious muse, Kathleen, who played a pivotal role in his life. It is a richly envisioned world, and Ms. Paquette is to be commended for her painterly language and smart storytelling: The Hammock is a satisfying and enlightening read. I recommend it!
A wonderful story. If you enjoy reading about an artist and his muse and the fellow painters in their circle i.e. Manet, Millais, Alma-Tadema, etc, than feast your eyes on this beautifully written story; loosely based on the life of Victorian painter James Jacques Tissot!
OrchardBookClub rated it 5.0 out of 5 stars
What a truly fantastic book and I loved the paintings! I was a little nervous at first about reading this book as I have never read a book from this period before. I wasn’t disappointed and it was wonderful to see the obvious time and dedication from the author that has gone into researching and piecing together the life of James Tissot.
James Tissot was a gifted artist who made himself a very rich man through his work. He survives, whilst fighting as a sharpshooter when the Prussians attack Paris and after the rebellion he flees to London to make a name for himself again as an artist. In London, he finds his muse who he refers to as “La Mysterieuse” and spends all his time painting her. He ends up shutting himself out from the people around him and after showing his paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery the British art people eventually turn against him.
The Hammock is a fabulous story of war, art, fame, friendship, love, riches and tragedy.
Diane Vincent rated it 5.0 out of 5 stars
A great story. I felt like I was really there witnessing these events first hand and meeting all of these artists amidst their drama and tragedies. Enjoyed it immensely.
Lynnette Ambler rated it 4 of 5 stars
Enjoyed this book immensely. Have been lucky enough to have seen most of the paintings described in the book in the flesh and it really adds another dimension to the pictures. You forget that these people weren’t working in isolation and that they would have interacted together and had working or other relationships.
I’d be interested to know how much of the story was conjecture and how much was based on hard fact. Judging by the bibliography at the back of the book the author has done a significant amount of research on the subject and it has brought more to my appreciation of the artworks.
Am quite keen to do some more reading on the subjects myself.
@HammockAuthor enjoyed reading “The Hammock” great writing invite others as must read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Painterly lusciousness March 25, 2013
By Patricia O’reilly (Ireland)
Vivid descriptions of Franco/Prussian war open this story and the rich painterly descriptions continue throughout.
I am particularly interested ‘The Hammock’ as my book ‘A Type of Beauty’ is the story of Kathleen Newton who was Jacques Tissot’s mistress and muse for six years. Lucy captures the mood of the era brilliantly and writes with poise and ease. Though I query her handling of Jacques relationship with Kathleen. It is generally believed that she was the love of his life.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable March 28, 2013
By E. Davis “Nurse D” (Missouri)
I really liked getting to know this artist. I thought the book well-written and enjoyable. I would recommend it for an interesting look at this artist.
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read May 31, 2013
By Chatty1 “Chatty1” (South Coast, U.K.)
A riveting little read – part historical, part novel Lucy Paquette has clearly done her research.
Whether you enjoy learning more about Tissot or French history you’ll enjoy this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful read! June 6, 2013
I must say that I do not typically read this type of book of I found it very interesting. It was well written and I have a new appreciation for art! I definitely recommend that you pick it up!
The Hammock is an engaging account of French Artist James Tissot’s years in England. Ms. Paquette’s treatment of Tissot’s career leaves the reader asking him or herself, “What makes great art?” Following the Franco-Prussian war, Tissot’s agonizing efforts to be recognized and accepted by the nobility and art community of Victorian England are rebuffed, while his work ethic and skill are monetarily rewarded by the emerging middle and merchant classes. A fact-based fictional tale of Victorian England set against the art movements of the times, The Hammock captures the excitement of the development of the Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist movements through the eyes of James Tissot, a highly skilled artist of Realism. There is something in this novel for readers of many different literary genres. Elements of art and military history, romance, and interesting historical figures are combined into a fascinating tale of Victorian England. Prepare to be entertained while learning about the images that have shaped the history of art.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dramatic Period in Art
By gerardpeter August 26, 2013
This is a dramatized version of a period in the life of the artist James Tissot. It covers his service in the artists’ brigade during the Franco-Prussian War then his exile in London after the fall of the Commune. This was a time of commercial success but he was not accepted by the Royal Academy. His love affair with his muse, a divorced mother, Kathleen Newton, cut him off from the best social circles. After her death he returned to Paris. She modelled the works for which he is best known in this country – lushly coloured and detailed studies of fashionable women. The painting from which the novel takes its title was disliked when exhibited. Looking at it now you would wonder why. Lucy Paquette answers this question.
Tissot belonged to a time of change in art with the rise of Impressionism. He was too insecure to sacrifice reward for innovation. He lost the respect of Manet, Degas and Whistler, who feature significantly in this story. This book gave me a real insight into art at this time. The reproductions of several paintings show up well on Kindle. If the reader did not know something about this period it would not be very interesting as a novel, but it is a very effective way of presenting this time and these artists.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Word Pictures!
By Charles Hague August 30, 2013
Ms. Paquette creates beautiful word pictures that parallel the beauty of the excellent paintings in the book! The characters come alive and her vivid descriptions give the feeling of being with them rather than reading about them.
Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book while it was available for free on Kindle after a request for an honest review from the author.
As an art historian I was intrigued to read this book as I knew it was based on the life of the artist James Tissot, whose works I had previously encountered but whose life I didn’t yet have a complete picture of (if you pardon the pun). Talking of pictures – and without intending to sound completely vacuous – I also enjoyed the pictures of Tissot’s art that were shown throughout the book, unusually for a novel.
Instead of being something of a life story per se, The Hammock begins smack in the middle of a horrible war – the Franco-Prussian War to be exact, which funnily enough I studied a little last year. To my surprise, such a dark beginning worked very well, and I enjoyed these first few chapters particularly – Tissot’s experiences are not made pretty. They are unvarnished and bloody horror – so be warned. We experience war, and the death of friends through his eyes.
The chapters are dated almost like a diary entry, and at a fairly quick pace we then move on to post war, where Tissot struggles to remain in Paris in the unstable political climate. Career if not ruined, but certainly tattered, he follows some of his fellow artists friends to London in order to ‘kick-start’ if you will, his career and make some desperately needed money. I also enjoyed this next phase where he interacts with about every famous name you could think of. It was like being dropped into a historic party as a fly on the wall – and I loved this kind of ‘gossipy’ feel it had in places.
I liked the uniqueness of Tissot’s voice. We cannot really know exactly how he would be thinking about situations, but it was carried off well here, and a few Americanisms in the language aside, I found it plausible/believable. I particularly enjoyed the initial London scenes and interplay between Millais and his wife Effie – though not always Effie herself. I was also amused to have Ouida pop up.
The story is completed by the remaking of his career, this time in London and despite his initial attraction to Louise Romer, his later relationship with Kathleen Newton was to be long lasting (at least until her death).
I would say that this is not a novel that I would necessarily have thought of picking up myself, but I’m glad I did. As it has my twin loves art and history combined, and being based on a true story it was interesting and very engaging. Recommended as a thoughtful read, with time needed to really soak up Tissot’s life.
5.0 out of 5 stars a joy for the eyes and the mind
ScrappyDew “ScrappyDew” (North Wales, PA) October 6, 2013
“The Hammock” is a joy for the eyes and the mind, full of beautiful images and emotions. The artwork is wonderfully reproduced and the kindle copy allows you to enlarge the images to examine details. Prior to reading “The Hammock” I knew nothing of James Tissot, aside from the fact that he was a painter. The book is based on the true story of Tissot’s life, and as such it is historical fiction, not a biography. Paquette does a nice job of explaining in the beginning via author’s note just what parts of the book are based on fact and which are creative imaginings. Lucy Paquette did a very nice job of giving Tissot life, not just as a painter, but as a person. The story covers the tumultuous 10 year period of Tissot’s life following the Franco-Prussian war. Ms. Paquette paints a picture in words of a man out of place for and disappointed by Victorian London’s society rules. Through this book we come to understand the repeated rise and fall of this skilled artist and just how it has come to be that Tissot is not more remembered today.
This book is more than just the portrait of an artist however. Paquette has woven into Tissot’s history stories of great love and tragedy; infusing the tale with splendor and romance. She has also imparted to us a glimpse into the interactions of London high society in the late 1800’s and of the intertwining relationships of the many great artists of the period. I really appreciated reading about how the various artists influenced each other and how their paths crossed. The settings and descriptions feel real. The characters are engaging, drawing you into their lives. I felt Tissot’s frustration over his career, and his colleague’s jealousy. The images chosen for inclusion in the book are lovely and complement the chapters well. The only regret I have in regard to the paintings included in this book is that there were not more images of the many great paintings referenced. I would recommend this book to those with an interest in James Tissot of course, but also art, historical fiction, art history, the Franco-Prussian War, and Victorian society. Full disclosure: I have been provided a copy of the book for the purpose of providing a review; however the opinions presented are my own and not influenced or dictated by publisher or author.
Written for LayeredPages.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book
By Georgetowner January 25, 2015
LOVED this book! When I got near the end I had that “great read” feeling that I need to slow down or it will all be over too soon! I learned so much about the art world at the time and what it meant to be an artist and try to sell your work. It is very well written and a pleasure to read. I love that the book included pictures of many of the paintings and while I could not see the details well on my little Kindle, the book has a fb page I could see them more clearly, I will say when I began the book it was a bit slow for me because I was expecting an art book and it began as a war book, but I am so glad I kept going! I discovered that this background information about the war is essential to the story and understanding the life of Tissot. I gave this book as a gift to my niece, an art history major, and she loved it too!
Lucy Paquette recreates part of the life and times of French painter James Tissot, mainly after he arrives in London in 1871. Born Jacques Joseph Tissot in Nantes, Tissot had achieved great success in France, before his involvement in the Franco-Prussian war, and, especially, the Paris Commune, caused him to leave France.
Tissot was a Realist painter and, unlike many artists, a good businessman with an eye for what sold, and his paintings, mainly of beautiful women in everyday situations, sold extremely well in England.
Paquette shows the difficulty Tissot had in dealing with the jealousy of other artists, and she demonstrates that many of the great artists of the day, such as Manet, Degas, and Whistler, had a lot of difficulty selling their art while Tissot was very comfortable.
Added to that was the snobbery of English critics who appear to have objected to the fact that many of Tissot’s scenes featured nouveau riche ladies, rather than ladies from high society. Tissot never got a good review from Ruskin, the eminence grise of English art criticism, nor membership of the Royal Academy.
His initial admiration for fellow artist Louise Romer was unrequited (she married and became Louise Jopling), and he eventually lived with the beautiful Mrs Kathleen Newton, a divorced woman, and the frequent sitter in many of his paintings, which meant many of his friends could not invite them to parties or visit with their wives.
Lucy Paquette tells her story entertainingly, and gives us wonderful pen pictures of the artists and others who populated Tissot’s world.
To anyone interested in Tissot or the art world of the 1870’s and 1880’s, I can’t recommend this book enough.