The Flames is the second artistic fiction I’ve reviewed since the turn of the year, once again via Netgalley and the publishers, to whom I am very grateful. And, like I, Mona Lisa, I rate The Flames is a cracker.
by Sophie Haydock
Every painting tells a story, but what if the women on the canvas could talk…
Vienna, at the beginning of the 20th century, is an exhilarating social whirl, a city of ideas, of music, of groundbreaking art, lead by Gustav Klimt until the arrival of his scandalous protegee, Egon Schiele. Into this world come four women, each with their own story to tell:
ADELE: passionate, fierce, obstinate. The daughter of a bourgeois family, she rails against the strictures of her class and harbours her own wild fantasies.
GERTRUDE: spirited, single-minded, possessive. The sister to budding artist Egon Schiele, she longs for an exciting life away from their tempestuous family home.
VALLY: determined, independent, proud. A model for celebrated artist Gustav Klimt, she has carved her way out of poverty and is now forging a brave new path for herself.
EDITH: quiet, conventional, loyal. Or is she? Younger sister to Adele, Edith is overlooked and wonders if there is another version of the woman she might become.
Four flames, four wild, blazing hearts, longing to be known. In an elegant bohemian city like Vienna, everything seems possible – until an act of betrayal changes everything. For just as a flame has the power to mesmerize, it can also destroy everything in its path . . . [goodreads]
Vienna is a city I love. I particularly remember my encounter with the art of Egon Schiele in the Belvedere one Remembrance Sunday, some time in the 1990s. So I was gripped by the idea behind this book.
As I read, I was fascinated by the way the author had transcribed the facts about Schiele and his women into the story. As with the marvellous I, Mona Lisa, I wondered how much had been pieced together, and how much simply imagined. In fact, the author gives a good account of the research behind each of the women, and the events in Schiele’s life. I enjoyed reading that almost as much as the book.
This is vibrant stuff. All of life is here, seen through the eyes of the four women, providing a view of four aspects of pre-war Vienna. It helped me understand the politics of the time, and why the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand precipitated the World War, which had seemed to me to be mostly about the mud in the Somme (and other places). I knew a little of Schiele’s involvement in the war from what I’d read of his life, so that haunted me through the book, especially with Adele’s leap from pre- to post-war narrative.
The women are wonderful, and fit the artworks of them so well. The voices are totally right, and the tangled web of Schiele’s lovelife seems absolutely believable.
It’s another brilliant book. Read it!Book Review | The Flames by Sophie Haydock 'vibrant stuff. All of life is here… Read it!' @Words_by_Sophie @netgalley #The Flames Click To Tweet