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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Every painting tells a story, but what if the women on the canvas could talk?

Adele: passionate, fierce, obstinate. The daughter of a bourgeois family in 1900s Vienna, she rails against the strictures of her class and longs for freedom.

Gertrude: spirited, single-minded, possessive. The sister to budding artist Egon Schiele, she longs for an exciting life away from their tempestuous family home.

Vally: determined, independent, proud. A model for celebrated artist Gustav Klimt, she has carved her way out of poverty and is now forging a brave new path for herself.

Edith: quiet, conventional, loyal. Or is she? Younger sister to Adele, Edith is overlooked and wonders if there is another version of the woman she might become.

Four flames, four wild, blazing hearts, longing to be known. All four will become muses to the charismatic but controversial artist Egon Schiele. In an elegant bohemian city like Vienna, everything seems possible - until an act of betrayal changes everything. For just as a flame has the power to mesmerize, it can also destroy everything in its path....

©2022 Sophie Haydock (P)2022 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
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Four flames and an artist in shadow

A compelling tale around four women, all of them closely associated with the Austrian painter Egon Schiele. I liked how the author did her best to give them a voice and agency. Sophie Haydock told their stories by combining what little we know about their lives with what she imagined might have happened.
I'm not entirely sure why but even though we spend quite a lot of time with each of the four woman, I never fully warmed (pun not intended) to any of them; they remained just a tad too removed for my liking and whenever I felt that I was getting to know one of them better, there was a jump in time and the momentum was a bit lost. Moreover, I found it slightly mysterious and almost baffling why those interesting women were all so very much drawn - in their own ways - to this artist, Egon Schiele. His character remained mostly in shadow and quite nebulous altogether to me which at time made it hard to believe he'd be so important to the main charterers of the book.
Nevertheless, a really enjoyable read, though quite tragic. The excellent narration by Hattie Morahan in particular made it hard for me to not give 5 stars overall.

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A wonderful imagining of the life and times of Egon Schiele models

I would heartily recommend this book.

It’s a fascinating insight into the artist world from the early 20th century.

A social history plus a moving account of the women that we still look at in the art galleries all around the world.

It is fiction but a fascinating theory nevertheless.

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Art brought to life

Intriguing exploration of the stories of four women whose lives were entwined with Egon Schiele

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My book of 2022. So far. Absolutely fantastic!

Sophie Haydock’s novel about Egon Schiele was bound to appeal to me. I studied art and English and had Klimt’s The Kiss on my wall as student in Leeds in the 1980s, and several by Schiele too. He appealed to my punk sensibility; his models looked like me and my gothic friends. But wow, did it exceed any expectations! I’ve just been walking round the Co-Op in Brighton in tears. It’s beautifully read by an actor I mistook for Juliet Stephenson and the subject matter - women’s agency - is written about with such passion and intensity I’m recommending it to all the authors and artists I know. If listen to audio books and like novels such as this, add it to your cart today. It’s not a thriller, it’s historical fiction, feminist and kicks a punch. The writing is beautiful. I believe it’s a first novel, and I’m agog.

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Enjoyable and interesting fictional take on real life characters

Spoiler alert! Don’t Google the characters til after you have finished the novel or you will find out what happened. Very clever story about the four muses of a successful artist. Took me a while to get into it then was intrigued by the story.

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Loved it from start to finish

Sorry to finish this one, great story very well told, I will listen to this story again