The Art of Rebellion

Written by Brenda Joyce Leahy
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

In her debut novel, Leahy gives us a charming young girl of sixteen, Gabrielle Villiers, who is in love with painting. It’s set in Paris during La Belle Époque (from the late 19th to the early 20th century); this “beautiful era” was a time of peace, but also a time of invention and a flourishing of the arts. Gabbi, the youngest of three sisters, has no interest in marriage but finds herself the object of attention of a certain baron who is at least twice her age and is in no way the kind of man she could ever love. So, Gabbi, faced with a miserable marriage, defies convention and flees to Paris, where she hopes to find her suffragette Grandmère, who disappeared four years earlier after a skirmish with the police during a women’s march for equal rights.

A girl in the big city is bound to run into trouble and Gabbi does just that. From losing her money to a young woman who befriends her, to discovering the great art at the Louvre, to encountering a charming and mysterious young man, Gabbi meets danger with aplomb and wit. This charming book of manners (think of a French Jane Austen) is entertaining, well-writte,n and surprising. A delightful read.