New Fiction: The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman – Sena Jeter Naslund

It’s always interesting to see what Sena Naslund will take on next. She came to widespread prominence fourteen years ago for the blockbuster, Ahab’s Wife. Since then she’s written a historical novel about Birmingham in the Civil Rights Era, a historical novel about Marie Antoinette, and a dystopic allegory about fundamentalism and faith.

Switching direction yet again, this new novel is about a writer who finds both solace and reward in her work regardless of how it is received. Her latest project studies the life of the French Revolutionary portrait artist Élisabeth Vigée-le Brun. The result is a narrative that blends art and history with a contemporary story to illuminate the lives of two strong, creative women across time. (Trivia: Vigée-Le Brun was also a minor character in Naslund’s Abundance.)

Naslund’s editor, Jennifer Brehl, made an interesting observation about the author’s work: “One of the many things I admire about Sena Jeter Naslund is that she never does the same thing twice…. There is, however, one unifying thread that runs through each and every one of her books: the power and self-determination of the female creative spirit.”

In a lively and pointed variation on James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, popular and conceptually adventurous Naslund portrays two women artists in a novel within- a-novel. . . . this is an incisive and keenly pleasurable novel about women artists overcoming adversity to create ‘joyful work’ that celebrates life’s beauty and wonder.”

The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman (9780061579325) by Sena Jeter Naslund. $26.99 hardcover. 9/17/13 on sale. 

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