Picasso’s Lovers

Written by Jeanne Mackin
Review by Lee Lanzillotta

In sultry, sun-drenched southern Europe during the 1920s, various women fall in and out of favor with the famously passionate painter Picasso. Meanwhile, in the 1950s, a career woman named Alana attempts to track down Sara, one of the women closest to the temperamental Spaniard and increasingly reclusive artist, in an attempt to learn more about him. Alana’s interest in Picasso and Sara stems partly from her late mother’s love of the former’s work, as well as a mysterious newspaper clipping about Sara that Alana found amongst her mother’s books. As family secrets come to light, these two timelines come together nicely. The book weaves real history with enticing, well-plotted fiction.

Although the start and finish are a little drawn out, I enjoyed Picasso’s Lovers. The sensual, succulent prose draws the reader in like a particularly delicious work of art. Speaking of art, I found myself googling the individual works referenced out of curiosity. Previously I hadn’t even been aware of Picasso’s undeniably charming ceramics, for example.

On a thematic note, the book displays the author’s solid understanding of the difficulties faced by career-oriented women in the 1950s, as well as women in general in the 1920s. Her depiction of Alana’s internal conflict over her relationship with her fiancé, who wants her to settle down and abandon her dream of writing about art, is thoughtful and historically plausible. I found the ending satisfying, if slightly bittersweet.