Art and Seduction: Paris Red

Novelhistorian

Olympe, Edouard Manet, 1863. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)Olympe, Edouard Manet, 1863-65. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Review: Paris Red, by Maureen Gibbon
Norton, 2015. 282 pp. $26

In a Paris still reeling from the recent war of 1870, two young women, teenagers still, share a tiny apartment and work as silver burnishers. It’s a demanding job but steady work, and Louise and Denise (called Nise) count themselves lucky to have each other’s friendship and a sound alternative to working the streets, however meager their wages. But they also dream of more, of being noticed, picked out from among the crowd.

One day, they pose before a shopwindow, holding drawing tablets, pretending to sketch what’s inside. A man approaches them, and a triangular flirtation begins. At first, Louise and Nise are careful not to push themselves forward, each concerned with not hurting the other; besides, they must at least pretend to play hard to get. But beneath the…

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