Although Lisette Roux resents leaving Paris with her husband, André, to care for his grandfather Pascal, she loves hearing Pascal reminisce about Pissarro and Cézanne. Their paintings and others, which hang on his walls, have immense personal and monetary value, so André conceals them before leaving to fight. Alone during wartime, Lisette endures tragedy and hardships while developing close friendships; they, and her mission to recover the paintings, drive her on.
The stunning countryside, with its ochre mines, fragrant orchards, and cold mistral, is passionately depicted, and Vreeland is an informed guide to the Impressionist through Modernist movements. The book’s most touching moments, though, intertwine art with human connections, such as how the love between Marc and Bella Chagall—in hiding from the Nazis in Provence—is evoked through his work.
Lisette's List is published tomorrow in hardcover by Random House ($27, 410pp). This review first appeared in Booklist's July issue.