Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price

Book Info:
A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Gotham; (March 3, 2009)
ISBN: 1592404340
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Source: For Review, Blog Tour
Rating: 4/5

While in her late twenties, Marjorie Price leaves the comfort of her Chicago suburb to strike out on her own in Paris and hone her artistic talents. Dazzled by everything French, she falls in love with a volatile French painter and they purchase an old farmhouse in the Breton countryside. When Marjorie's seemingly idyllic marriage begins to unravel, she forms a friendship with an elderly peasant woman, Jeanne, who is illiterate, has three cows to her name, and has never left the village. Their differences are staggering yet they forge a friendship that transforms one another's life.

Memoirs are one of my favorite genres, but it's been a while since I've read one that I loved.  It seems like most of the memoirs out are about what a terrible childhood the author had, and how that affected the rest of their life.  A Gift from Brittany is about as far from this kind of memoir as you can get, and it reminded me of why I fell in love with memoirs in the first place.

Price's writing is beautiful and descriptive.  I could easily picture the French countryside, her paintings, and the house she so lovingly restored.  I enjoyed the contrast between her busy life in Paris, and the tranquility of the countryside.  The villagers may have moved at a slow pace, but their lives were full of friends, family and hard work. 

I really felt a connection to Marjorie.  When her relationship with Yves was on rocky ground, I wanted to step in and make things better for her.  Through out the rough times, Marjorie was able to lean on her friend, Jeanne.  Even though Marjorie and Jeanne were so different, their friendship was a testament to the bonds that women form with each other. 4 stars

About the Author:

Marjorie Price was born in Chicago, Illinois. After receiving a B.A. in Speech and Drama (1951) from Stanford University, she returned to Chicago and studied painting and design at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1953 she made her first trip to Europe. She remained there for six months, attending art classes at the Grande Chaumiére in Paris. On her return to the United States, she settled in San Francisco and studied painting at the San Francisco Art League. From 1953 to 1960, she worked in television, continued to paint, and indulged her love of theater by acting in regional theater. In 1960, she again left America for France, living first in Paris and then on a farm in Brittany which she restored and where she created an art center called the “Centre d’Art de la Salle” where painters, sculptors and ceramists came from various parts of France to exhibit their work. In 1970, she moved to Rome, Italy with her daughter Danielle. In 1978, after eighteen years in Europe, she returned to the United States and settled in New York. Her work is represented in numerous private and public collections in the United States and Europe. Marjorie Price lives and works as a painter and author in New York City.

If you check out her website you can also see some of her paintings, which are beautiful.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I just love the sound of this book. Despite Marjorie's difficulties, there is still Brittany, and her friend, and her self-discovery. I need to find some time to squeeze this one in! Nice review!

bermudaonion said...

I love memoirs too and I'm really looking forward to this one since it's set in France. Glad to see it's good.

Zibilee said...

I have read several great reviews of this book and I really want to read it. I agree with your assessment of most of the memoirs out there, and think that this one sounds like it's broken out of the mold of the "woe-is-me" variety. Great review! I will be looking for this one!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds wonderful Melissa; thanks for bringing it to my attention.

You MUST read The Immortal Life of Henrietta lacks; Skloot, if you have not done so already; excellent.