Saturday, February 20, 2016


Title:  Georgia
Author:  Dawn Tripp
Publication Information:  Random House. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  140006953X / 978-1400069538

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I no longer love you as I once did, in the dazzling rush of those early days."

Favorite Quote:  "... I determine that when anyone else asks, I will say I took nothing. I purged it all. A woman who keeps nothing. A woman who has stripped her world down to tomorrow. It's only up to me now:  what I give them to construct their understanding of who I am."

Fictionalizing the lives of historical figures can be an intriguing introduction to history I may not otherwise study. Fiction is just that - fiction. I don't ever mistake it for actual history, but, having read a fictionalized account, I find myself researching the actual history.

In reading this book, I find myself looking up biographies of Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. I find myself paging through images of their artwork - her paintings and his photography. This book by Dawn Tripp takes on their relationship and marriage. The cover, of course, is a nod to Georgia O'Keefe's work, and the title indicates the focus of this book. In fact, the book begins with an elderly Georgia O'Keefe looking back on her life, her art, and her relationship.

The relationship between Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz begins because he sees her artwork, well before he ever meets her. Over the course of their lives, they are partners, lovers, spouses, and friends. They work together and at times, seem to work against each other. He is her promoter and agent and her supporter. She is his model and his muse, but he is sometimes a hindrance to her work. Regardless, time and time again, they return to each other, and the relationship survives, even as Georgia O'Keefe finds her own voice as an individual and as an artist.

The physical attraction between the two is clear and is graphically described in the book. Perhaps that is expected given two historical facts. First, many people have suggested erotic interpretations of Georgia O'Keefe's artwork. Second, many of Alfred Stieglitz's works include many suggestive and revealing images of Georgia O'Keefe. Given that, the physical aspects of their relationship are not a surprise; neither is the impact on their work. However, I can imagine the relationship and don't need the graphic descriptions in the book. Such descriptions are not for me, especially when presented in the context of historical figures.

Part of what I enjoy about historical fiction is that surrounding the immediate story, the books often bring to life a time and a place. For example, The Swans of Fifth Avenue vividly depicts the life of the rich in 1960s New York. Rodin's Lover focuses on the relationship between artists Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin in the context of those around them. This book seems to zero in on the relationship but does not build the world around them. For example, at one point, Alfred Stieglitz closes his gallery because of World War I. That fact is mentioned, but then the war that altered the world is not mentioned again. As such, the book appears a microscope into the lives of these two individuals. It is about the relationship.

Why and how does this relationship survive? I am not really sure. I suppose that emotion is not really captured in their true histories and hence cannot be realistically depicted in a fictional version. Still, I wait for that fiction to emerge throughout the book. I want to understand and wait not for the history but for the fictional story to engage emotionally. "He once called our relationship a mixing of souls. But then again, he called it a love story. And it was far more - and less than that." What draws her to him, and given some of his machinations and manipulations, what keeps her there? I wish I knew.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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