Brigitte Lozerec'h - devoured by envy and haunted by a past she never actually experienced, the "little one" hurls herself into the artistic and personal life of her elder sister. It is the birth of a fierce rivalry, an emotional tug-of-war, played out against the bohemian riot of the last century's wildest years
Brigitte Lozerec'h, Sisters, Trans. by Betsy Wing, Dalkey Archive Press; Reprint, 2013.
Mathilde Lewly--a female painter at the dawn of the twentieth century--has achieved notoriety among the Parisian avant-garde. She and her husband, also a talented young artist, pursue their separate visions side by side in a Clichy atelier, galvanized by the artistic ferment that surrounds them. But the couple are threatened by the shadow of Mathilde's little sister, Eugenie: since the two girls' sudden departure from their native England, Eugenie has been determined to vault the eight years separating her from Mathilde. Now, devoured by envy and haunted by a past she never actually experienced, the "little one" hurls herself into the artistic and personal life of her elder sister. It is the birth of a fierce rivalry, an emotional tug-of-war, played out against the bohemian riot of the last century's wildest years. But will the First World War's sudden and brutal eruption allow Mathilde to escape this intimate conflict and achieve her destiny?
Midway through Brigitte Lozerec’h’s Sisters, Mathilde Lewly, one of the novel’s eponymous siblings as well as its narrator, lost in a moody internal monologue, launches at a painting by her younger sister Eugénie the following critical question: “The scene was certainly right, but what was it about the pictures that seemed so empty?” Like Eugénie’s painting, Lozerec’h’s novel is proficiently executed with no obvious aberration or omission spoiling the integrity or artistry of the whole. Still, as the novel begins with a soft-hued vision of the Clichy studio that Mathilde and her husband Frédéric call home something, it must be admitted, doesn’t sit quite right:
Trembling without taking my eyes off him, dropping the soft lead pencil and tracing paper where I’d copied the sketch I’d made the night before, I went to the sofa where he joined me. I looked at the bluish scar he’d smeared across his forehead with the back of his hand. As he kneeled close to me and reached for my blouse with fingers still stained from the colors he’d mixed, I was already unfastening my corset to give him my breasts and already he was lifting my skirt with one hand. I learned then that seconds can last forever, because the memory still moves me deeply whenever I conjure it up. - Hairy Dog Review