This engaging novel recounts an exciting life for the nude model in Edouard Manet’s famous painting, Olympia. Mademoiselle Victorine is a young girl of obscure origins when she’s enrolled in the Paris Opera ballet school. Determined to gain financial security, bold Victorine catches the eye of the controversial painter, Edouard Manet. She agrees to model for him, but refuses his advances, for he is famous for loving his models and then leaving them. His first nude painting of her causes a scandal, and brings her to the attention of wealthy benefactors. From there, she steps up, man by man, to unexpected fame, riches, and power. Yet she continues to model for Manet, and their unspoken attraction grows. When she becomes entangled in politics, it is Manet who cleverly saves her, but it takes a war and a revolution before Victorine embraces the truth that love is more important than riches.
Despite one jarring coincidence and a questionable legal issue, Mademoiselle Victorine is a charming, quick-paced novel full of famous people and endearing characters. The historical detail—clothing, furniture, food, carriages, etc.—is exquisitely researched and well integrated. Bravo to Ms. Finerman on her first novel, an accomplished portrait of artistic Paris.