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.