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by Antanas Sileika

Tomas Stumbras grew up in war-torn Eastern Europe: a dark, rainy land of misty hills and valleys, where the whispers of the ancient gods and devils are still heard by ordinary people. He is a god-maker, a sculptor with a gift for turning dead wood into protective saints for use in prayer. But it's 1917 and even remote Lithuania feels the transforming effects of World War I. Caught between the destruction around him and his own drive to create, Tomas must abandon the stability of home and family and strike out on his own.Tomas moves from his thatched wooden farmhouse to the vibrant streets and artistic community of Paris in the Roaring Twenties, where temptation and jealous are right around the corner from brilliance, beauty and fame. Working as a carpenter in the Folies Bergere, he encounters the dance sensation Josephine Baker and falls for a lovely chorus girl. But even when he finally achieves his dream and becomes an artist, he discovers that success demands sacrifice. Even when you find art and love, infamy and betrayal aren't far behind.Epic in scope and beautifully evocative of time and place, Woman in Bronze reveals a life lived in extremes. It tells a story of love found and lost, creative endeavour and the price of celebrity and stardom.Excerpt from Woman in BronzeEasterners flooded into Paris, and it hummed with Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Romanian, and many other languages among the porters and labourers. Tomas also saw many English and Americans, always rich, usually laughing, and often drunk. Waves were washing over the city from all ends of the world, churning into a froth in which even a talented person could drown.From the Hardcover edition.
Download Woman in Bronze epub
ISBN: 0679312986
ISBN13: 978-0679312987
Category: Literature
Subcategory: World Literature
Author: Antanas Sileika
Language: English
Publisher: Vintage Canada (June 21, 2005)
Pages: 400 pages
ePUB size: 1207 kb
FB2 size: 1647 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 501
Other Formats: lit docx lrf lrf

I love this book and all the serpentine twists and turns it takes as it goes from rural Lithuania to Paris in the 20's with artists and writers and the irrispressable Josephine Baker. Read it with a glass of champagne and a smile.
I really enjoyed reading this novel. It's a kunstleroman about the development of a young would-be sculptor who leaves his peasant roots in Lithuania after the Great War and then journeys to Paris, trying to make it in the art scene there in the 20's. There's a lot of work that's obviously gone into the book, especially in the research, but also in the tapering of scenes so that they are just the right length. You can feel the buzz of history surrounding the narrative episodes but the author never lets that displace the narrative momentum of the book. The earlier episodes on the farm don't move as fast as the later ones in Paris but there are some amazing scenes: the execution of an unplanned murder and stuffing the body in a river, the mowing and threshing of a field, etc.

What I like best about the book is the way the author seems to get inside the way the protagonist, Tomas, gets inside a piece of wood and finds the shapes of his sculptures as he progresses. This love of the artist for the shape in the wood never goes away and as a reader, you expect him to become cynical or removed or rotten as he grows as an artist but he never does. The protagonist remains essentially true in a city as putrid and bilious as its impacted sewers. And yes, Josephine Baker does make a few appearances (many scenes are set in the club where she stars) in Sileika's own reverent/irreverent way.
Tomas, the protagonist in this fine literary novel of Paris in the 1920's, journeys from the Rainy Land, Lithuania, to Paris, chased from his homeland by tragedy and fate. Sileika chooses his words carefully, painting a masterpiece of fiction with fine characterization, brilliant scene sets, and a compelling internal story of a tortured folk artist seeking his fame and fortune. Real folks (Josephine Baker, for one) stop by in the novel to spice up the plot and add realism to the fictional tale (a technique I employed in my historical novel of Finnish immigration, "Soumalaiset", ISBN 0972005064). A thoughtful, gut-wrenching, well-drawn novel that reminds me of the "Germinal", the best of Emil Zola.
Woman in Bronze is the story of a young artist who flees his war-torn native Lithuania at the turn of the last century and makes his way from the streets of Paris into its salons, where he encounters dilettantes and artists alike. He is even treated to nights at the Folies Bergere, where he finds both fleeting and enduring love. The great achievement of the novel is that it is a spellbinding story which also manages to say something important abour our age, about lost love and high ambition and artistic rivalry, about the difference between striving for the greater good and striving for baser, more egotistical and ephemeral works. Like Sileika's previous work about immigrants, Buying on Time, this is a novel to treasure, a book that will outlive us all.
I really liked this book. It has wonderful atmosphere - the magic of Lithuania, the blend of sophistication and everyday in Paris. The theme of being surrounded by people who do not understand you really spoke to me. I especially liked the main character,Tomas, because he cared about others but would not give up on his dreams. He shows what was once called strength of character. Best of all, I liked the message that you can love your family and village and country, but still need to leave to find like minded souls.