Saturday, July 23, 2016

THE ART OF REBELLION BY BRENDA JOYCE LEAHY - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone,

Today, I am back with another book review, The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy. Thanks so much to the author for giving me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Even though this book is set in the early 1900s and is considered a historical fiction, it still had some themes and views that are very much still prevalent in today's society. I think that this aspect helps to keep people who aren't necessarily regular readers of historical fiction, such as myself, interested in the story.

At it's basic level, this is a book of a girl, Gabrielle, who is promised to an old man three times her age, but she doesn't want to be a mother or wife, at her age, or really, at any point. She considers herself a "modern woman," one who can have a career outside family life and running a household, and runs away from her family to live with her grandmother in Paris and to pursue her dream of being an artist. Once she gets to the capital, she finds her grandmother is missing and she has nowhere to go. Soon, she meets a fellow artist and lives with her as she searches for her grandmother and tries to get enrolled in one of the only art schools that allows women students.

One of the major themes in this book was feminism, or really just treating women like people. It is horrifying to see Gabrielle's mother selling her off to this man, just to help secure their family name. Even when Gabrielle begs her not to allow it, she refuses. Even when she gets to the city, Gabrielle is faced with both men AND women who oppose women's rights. At this point in time, the women of society weren't even asking for a right to vote yet. They just wanted to be allowed to choose, or at least deny who they were to marry, and to be able to have their own bank accounts. Nothing too crazy.

And the part that terrified me the most about this book, is that when you get down to it, not a lot has changed from 1900 to 2016. Sure, women have the vote and can work for a living outside the home, but there are more modern issues women face, like the corporate glass ceiling, the wage gap, or the fact that America, in all its almost 240 years, has never had a female president, and is now almost at the point where they would rather have a xenophobic, misogynistic, lunatic lead their country, just because that person is male, than have a women as their president. But I digress, this is a debate for another time.

What I enjoyed most about the book was at the end, when Gabrielle eventually goes back to her home and is forced to marry the baron, after she has met someone else, she still sticks to her guns and doesn't just give up her dream of being an artist because a man she likes tells her to. She is strong enough to chose her own path and not care about the affect it has on her gentleman friend.

There is just so much character development within Gabbi; she starts out her journey a naive girl trying to escape marry and pursue her dream, but through her experiences in Paris, she grows and becomes more conscious of the world around her. Besides living a fairly sheltered live, she was never 'trained' for life in the big city. She was too trusting, too quickly and it cost her dearly. In the end, however, she knows what she has to do to save her family, and is willing to make that sacrifice. She becomes a mature young woman who still wants to follow her dreams, but has a more realistic expectation of what that will look like.

I did find that this book was just a little heavy on the art references. There was a lot of comment on famous artists and paintings, some of which I knew, but most I didn't. They kind of went right over my head, but I was expecting these allusions because quite a large part of this book is about Gabbi's love of art and being set in Paris where there is so much art.

My only other small, tiny little tweak I would have been when the wedding announcements go out, and they are only in the initials, well, I won't spoil it, but I just felt like a little too much was given away here. I knew how it was going to end right then and I just wish I would have been kept in suspense just a little bit longer.

Overall, this is a historical fiction that reads as a modern day novel. There were points where I forgot it was a historical fiction because so many of the issues are still prevalent today.