Synopses & Reviews
In this absorbing novel, the award-winning author David Huddle tells a provocative story involving the life of the mysterious painter Georges de La Tour and the echoes of his work across time.
An art history professor, Suzanne Nelson escapes her failing marriage by retreating into her research and the fertile world of her imagination. La Tour's ability to create luminous portraits of peasants stood in sharp contrast to his aggression toward the poor, but little information about his life exists, and Suzanne finds herself filling in the details, trying to understand how a man capable of brutality could create such beauty. Unwittingly looking to her own life and marriage, she invents La Tour's final painting sessions with a young model, a village girl. When the girl modestly disrobes for the artist, he discovers a marking on her back that she is obviously unaware of. By painting her, La Tour in effect reveals to the girl exactly who she is and who she is not. Her reaction is at once astonishing and utterly warranted. In Suzanne's mind, this encounter becomes a story of truth and lies, art and identity.
Deftly moving between the present and the seventeenth century, Huddle reveals the surprising repercussions of history and art in modern life. In the process he asks the biggest questions: How do we come to define who we are? Which secrets must remain our own and which can we justify giving away? La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl is both passionate and fascinating, a wonder of narrative invention and emotional depth.
"Some novels incorporate all the tricks of modern narrative, and a few of those, including this one, come out readable anyway. The two main characters, art historian Suzanne Nelson and her PR genius husband Jack, try to overcome their childhood backgrounds, their boredom, and their drifting marriage. Jack leaps back into bed with Elly Jacobs, an old flame, while Suzanne fantasizes scenes from the life of her research subject, the painter Georges de La Tour. Suzanne's imagined La Tour himself leads a fantasy life over his teenage model Vivienne, who has a
strange growth of wolf hair on her back.
These intertwined stories leap back and forth in various combinations of chronology, betrayal, self-awareness, and viewpoint, all framed craftily to avoid confusion. Huddle, a professor at the University of Vermont, avoids the usual cliches of the academic novel, and keeps the focus on the characters rather than on the minutiae of what they do for a living. A quick read by a clever technician." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"[Huddle] reaches new heights of emotional verity and all-out bewitchment....Huddle brilliantly conveys the eroticism of conversation...and all of love that remains silent and withheld." Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A]nyone looking for easy distraction or predictable romance will be disappointed; Huddle's book offers more complex pleasures....[T]he novel has an honesty and psychological depth that are at times painfully real and quietly moving." The New York Times Book Review
"[B]eautifully written but awkwardly plotted....Huddle never manages to make the artistic sensuality of La Tour's story resonate....Huddle's talent still shines through here, but this book is a step down from his successful debut." Publishers Weekly
"Despite the novel's heavy subject, Huddle's writing is always agile and often very witty. The characters are deftly drawn and frequently quirky." The Washington Post
"[R]ichly drawn....Huddle explores this intriguing thematic material with considerable resourcefulness and style." Library Journal
Taking as its subject the mysterious painter Georges de La Tour, this haunting work is a fascinating examination of the echoes of the artist's work across time.
About the Author
David Huddle's fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Esquire, Harper's Magazine, Story, the New York Times Magazine, and The Best American Short Stories. Among his books of short fiction are Tenorman, Intimates, and Only the Little Bone. The recipient of two NEA fellowships, he teaches writing at the University of Vermont and is on the Faculty of the Board Loaf School of English. The author currently resides in Burlington, Vermont.