Did not hold my interest

The Weeping Woman: A Novel - Zoe Valdes, David Frye

I’ve always enjoyed reading about artists and their muses. I truly thought I would love reading about Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso.  But this book did not hold my interest at all nor did I care about any of these shallow people.  Unfortunately, I’m not able to recommend it.


This is a tragic story about an artist in her own right, Dora Maar, who was obsessed with a “genius” artist, Pablo Picasso. Dora was the model for Picasso’s famous “The Weeping Woman” and was involved with him for nine years.  She ends up having a mental breakdown due to his treatment of her.  Fifteen years later, Dora takes a trip to Venice with two admirers of Picasso, Bernard Minoret and James Lord.  After this short trip, Dora shuts out the world and becomes a recluse.  The author interviews the two men to try to find out what happened on that trip.  The author is an award-winning novelist and I was expecting a heart wrenching passionate book.  It wasn’t that for me.


The book is written in alternating chapters going back and forth between Dora telling of her trip with Bernard and James, plus thinking back on her memories of Picasso, and then autobiographical chapters of the author and her pursuit of this story, plus her exile from Cuba. The book didn’t flow at all and seemed very disjointed, especially the sections about Dora.  I found the autobiographical chapters about the author to be more coherent.  The Dora chapters were hard to follow and jumped all over the place.  There would be a mention of Max Jacob, a poet who had asked for his close friend Picasso’s help when he was sent to a German concentration camp.  Chapters later it would be mentioned again and yet again chapters later.  There is a lot of name dropping, almost constant, such as so and so said this about Dora’s eyes and so and so said that about her intellect.


It also appears from the books I’ve recently read that today’s historical novels about artists must contain a lot of explicit, coarse sex scenes. This one meets that standard quite well.  There’s in particular a very descriptive sex orgy scene that I could have done without.  Passion can be written quite seductively but not like this.  Of course, this was sex involving Picasso so possibly there was no other way to write it.   The book reinforced my opinion of Picasso as a cruel madman but I expected to have more sympathy for Dora.


This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.