Girl in the Afternoon
In 1870, 18-year-old Aimee Savaray, daughter of a prominent Parisian family, aspires to become an artist. As war rages on the streets of Paris, Henri, a young man the Savarays had adopted from England as a boy, disappears after giving Aimee a kiss. Henri had also wished to become an artist and, as he and Aimee painted together, they fell in love. She cannot understand why he vanished without a word to her or her family, but she is convinced he is still alive.
After studying with Edouard Manet, Aimee has one of her paintings exhibited at the Salon de Paris, where she discovers a painting of herself, called Girl in the Afternoon. Realizing that the painting can only have been created by Henri, she begins a search for him and uncovers a web of secrets that threatens to tear her family apart. When Henri abandons Aimee for her model, Aimee, in an act of revenge, becomes involved with Manet and becomes pregnant with his child. It is up to Aimee’s grandmother, Madame Savaray, to save her reputation.
Burdick brings the sights and sounds of the Paris of the Impressionists to life. Aimee is an admirable protagonist, a woman trying to become an artist at a time when the art world was dominated by men. Henri is an intriguing character, even though the mystery of his past is not as fully developed as I would have liked. The characters of Aimee’s family, even her self-centered mother, are well drawn. Her grandmother is an especially admirable character. I would have liked to see more of Manet in the novel, but this is only a minor criticism. Girl in the Afternoon is an excellent debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by the author.