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Lisette's List
Cover of Lisette's List
Lisette's List
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
From Susan Vreeland, bestselling author of such acclaimed novels as Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany, comes a richly imagined story of a woman’s awakening in the south of Vichy France—to the power of art, to the beauty of provincial life, and to love in the midst of war.

In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.

With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.

Praise for Lisette’s List

“Vreeland’s love of painters and painting, her meticulous research and pitch-perfect descriptive talents . . . are abundantly evident in her new novel.”The Washington Post

“This historical novel’s . . . great strength is its lovingly detailed setting. . . . Readers will enjoy lingering in the sun-dappled, fruit-scented Provençal landscape that Vreeland brings to life.”The Boston Globe
From Susan Vreeland, bestselling author of such acclaimed novels as Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Clara and Mr. Tiffany, comes a richly imagined story of a woman’s awakening in the south of Vichy France—to the power of art, to the beauty of provincial life, and to love in the midst of war.

In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.

With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.

Praise for Lisette’s List

“Vreeland’s love of painters and painting, her meticulous research and pitch-perfect descriptive talents . . . are abundantly evident in her new novel.”The Washington Post

“This historical novel’s . . . great strength is its lovingly detailed setting. . . . Readers will enjoy lingering in the sun-dappled, fruit-scented Provençal landscape that Vreeland brings to life.”The Boston Globe
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Chapter One

    Road to Roussillon

    1937

    Amid the crowd of travelers darting in front of the Avignon train station, the delivery boys on ancient bicycles swerving between children and horse carts, and the automobile drivers honking their horns, André stood relaxed, eating an apple from a fruit stand. Meanwhile, I paced in a tight circle around our carpetbags, our valises, and our crates filled with everything we could take with us from our apartment in Paris, plus the tools from his workshop, plus the dream of my life sacrificed.

    “Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I asked.

    “Yes, Lisette.” André plucked a broad leaf off a nearby plane tree and laid it on a cobblestone. He touched my nose with his index finger and then pointed to the leaf. “He’ll park right there. On that cobblestone. Just watch.” He squeezed my hand. “In the south of France, things happen as they should.”

    But apparently in the south of France, buses didn’t operate on schedule, as they did in Paris. Nor did the light have the same effect as it did there. Here, the light singed the eye, wrapped itself around edges, intensified colors, ignited the spine. If it were otherwise, I would not have recognized the loveliness in a bare square that was not Paris, but there it was—­a shimmering watercolor of fathers and grandfathers sitting under the plane tree, their white shirts blued by the cornflower sky, which found openings in the foliage, the men eating almonds from a paper bag, passing it from one end of the bench to the other and back again, perhaps talking of better days. They looked content, sitting there, while I withdrew my hand from André’s and made another senseless circuit around the modest pile of our belongings, feeling his gaze following me.

    “Look at them,” André said in a low voice. “All members of the Honorary Order of Beret Wearers.” He chuckled at his own invention.

    Eventually a boxy little bus, a faded relic once painted orange beneath its rust, sputtered to a stop, the right front wheel crushing the leaf on the cobblestone. André tipped his head and gave me an excusably smug but tender smile.

    The stocky driver bounded down the steps, nimble-­footed, pointing his toes outward as weighty people do to keep their balance. He hailed André by name, reached his thick arm up to slap him on the back, and said he was glad to see him.

    “How’s Pascal doing?” André asked.

    “He gets around all right most days. Louise takes him his meals or he eats with us.”

    The driver bowed to me with exaggerated courtliness.

    “Adieu, madame. I am Maurice, un chevalier de Provence. A knight of the roads. Not, however, Maurice Chevalier, who is a knight of the stage.” He sent André a wink. “Your wife, she is more beautiful than Eleanor of Aquitaine.”

    Foolishness. I would not fall for it.

    Had he said Adieu? “Bonjour, monsieur,” I responded properly.

    I was amused by his attire—­a red cravat above his undershirt, the only shirt he wore, which dipped in front to show his woolly chest; a red sash tied as a belt; his round head topped by a black beret. Black hair curled out from his armpits, a detail I could have done without noticing, but I am, thanks to Sister Marie Pierre, the noticing type.

    He placed a hand over his fleshy bosom. “I deliver ladies in distress. Enchanté, madame.”

    I gave André a doleful look. I was in distress that very moment,...
About the Author-
  • Susan Vreeland is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue. She died in 2017.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 1, 2014
    Vreeland follows Clara and Mr. Tiffany with a lyrical paean to Provence, painting, and the timeless cycle of death and rebirth. In 1937, 20-year-old Lisette Roux must leave her beloved Paris to live with her husband André in the south of France, where they will care for his grandfather, Pascal, in tiny Roussillon. Provincial life is challenging in all but one respect. Lisette has always wanted to work with art, and Pascal, a former artists' pigment salesman, has collected seven extraordinary paintings as well as many tales of artists, which he is eager to share before he dies. His insistence on doing what is most important before it's too late inspires Lisette to create her own list of essential "hungers and vows." Soon after his passing, Germany occupies France. Before leaving to fight, André hides the paintings—Pissaros, Cezannes, and a possible Picasso—in a location he doesn't disclose in fear for Lisette's safety. The years that follow bring small privations, huge losses, the search for the scattered paintings, and the slow resurgence of hope. Early on, Vreeland's narrative lacks compelling suspense or drive, but it picks up once the war begins and the paintings are lost. The novel's heart is its patient interweaving of sensuous, meticulously observed details with themes of forgiveness, female strength, and survival.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2014
    Une jolie Parisienne in Provence during the turbulent World War II years comes to understand love and great art to the core of her being. In a sweeping historical novel set in Vichy, France, Lisette Roux, a 20-year-old bride who longs for "window-shopping, cabaret hopping, gallery gazing," grudgingly moves out of Paris to the rural south to take care of her new husband Andre's aging grandfather in 1937. "How are we going to survive in a town without a gallery?" she asks in dismay. But Pascal is not your ordinary grandpere: An ochre miner-turned-pigment salesman, he befriended young, unappreciated painters and amassed a collection of Cezanne, Pissarro and Picasso paintings. After Pascal dies, the loving couple is cast out of an Edenic existence following the German invasion of France. Andre enlists to fight the Nazis and meets a tragic end midway through the book. Lisette's short stay in Provence stretches out more than a decade, prolonged by the war and her determined attempt to find Pascal's pictures, which Andre hid for safekeeping before going to war. Lisette's sensibility deepens as she grows closer to former prisoner of war Maxime Legrand, Andre's fellow soldier and best friend. Marc and Bella Chagall, hiding in Provence because they are Jewish, show up for a brief but blazing cameo appearance. Vreeland, who has proven in earlier art-themed best-sellers that she has an exquisite eye for detail, is enormously talented at establishing the important societal role of art, particularly relevant here as the Nazis both steal and burn it. While her prose can get a bit fluffy ("apricot trees blossoming with pinkish-white petals like flakes of the moon") and the book wraps up a tad too tidily, her deeply researched novel is mesmerizing.Merveilleux. Vreeland's passionate writing is as good as a private showing at the Louvre.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2014
    Since the elegantly conceived "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue", Vreeland has written a string of best sellers that typically blend art and history with strong character study, and her new book is no different. At the time of the Vichy regime, a young Parisian ends up in Provence, caring for her husband's grandfather. Through the works of Cezanne, Pissarro, Chagall, and Picasso, she uncovers the glories of Provence despite wartime hardships. Not just art history, this book evokes key ethical questions, including the currently timely question of art stolen during World War II. With a West Coast tour.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    July 1, 2014
    In her moving latest novel, set in Provence between 1937 and 1948, Vreeland explores the power of art and how painters help us interpret our world. This involving novel also traces one young woman's maturation as she adjusts to a new life. Although Lisette Roux resents leaving Paris with her husband, Andr', to care for his grandfather Pascal, she loves hearing Pascal reminisce about Pissarro and C'zanne. Their paintings and others, which hang on his walls, have immense personal and monetary value, so Andr' conceals them before leaving to fight. Alone during wartime, Lisette endures tragedy and hardships while developing close friendships; they, and her mission to recover the paintings, drive her on. The stunning countryside, with its ocher mines, fragrant orchards, and cold mistral, is passionately depicted, and Vreeland is an informed guide to the Impressionist through Modernist movements. The book's most touching moments, though, intertwine art with human connections, such as how the love between Marc and Bella Chagallin hiding from the Nazis in Provenceis evoked through his work. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The beloved author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999) has a ready-made audience for her latest work.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • The Washington Post "[Susan] Vreeland's love of painters and painting, her meticulous research and the pitch-perfect descriptive talents that distinguished such books as Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Luncheon of the Boating Party are abundantly evident in her new novel."
  • The Boston Globe "[Lisette's List] great strength is its lovingly detailed setting, a mountaintop village--'like some fantasy kingdom from a child's folk legend, altogether dazzling'--whose charm gradually enwraps the reader just as it does the initially resistant Lisette. . . . Readers will enjoy lingering in the sun-dappled, fruit-scented Provençal landscape that Vreeland brings to life."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Part romance, part historical fiction, part travelogue, part art history text . . . Vreeland knows her art, she knows Provence, and she's done her historical homework. . . . Lisette's List offers its readers a pleasurable opportunity to learn something about art, history and ocher, and to enjoy a plucky heroine who grows in ways she never thought possible."
  • The Free Lance-Star "Mesmerizing . . . Vreeland's passionate writing is as good as a private showing at the Louvre."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "An entrancing novel of joy and heartache . . . Vreeland provides the reader with a broad spectrum of emotions."
  • Shelf Awareness "The novel's heart is its patient interweaving of sensuous, meticulously observed details with themes of forgiveness, female strength, and survival."--Publishers Weekly "Lisette's List is heartfelt, loving and lovely, and asks difficult questions beautifully."
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