Where the Light Falls {Book Review and Giveaway}

by Elizabeth

At the dawn of the Belle Epoque, an artist in Paris tells his students to “study where the light falls and where the shadows lie.” In many ways, Where the Light Falls does just that–looks at the light and shadows in the lives of the American expatriates who flocked to Paris in the 1880s to learn art and life, and to find themselves and who they really want to be.

Jeanette Palmer knows she’ll get into trouble when she helps a fellow student elope from Vassar College with a young man considered unsuitable by the bride’s family. But she doesn’t expect to actually get expelled. At first she’s devastated, but she manages to talk her family into letting her go to Paris to study art, as long as she’s chaperoned by her middle-aged Cousin Effie, a spinster since her one true love was killed in the Civil War.

The two arrive, find a suitable pension, and enroll Jeanette in art school. They begin to make friends with other single women artists, some with male chaperones (brothers, husbands) and some there alone. We are offered a glimpse into Paris of that era, with its dingy attics that were too hot in summer and freezing in winter, its crooked and dirty alleyways, its quartiers that are now trendy and expensive but then were considered on the outskirts of town and very accessible to those of limited means. We see women beginning to make their way as serious artists, and the prejudices they  face as such. We see the temptations that befall them, to cheapen their work into sketches for money, to turn to the easy out of drug use to face difficult situations.

Where the Light Falls also follows the path of Edward Murer, a Civil War veteran now a pharmacist, struggling with an addiction to laudanum. Visiting Paris with his brother’s family after a trip to their family home in Germany, Edward decides to stay and begins to spend time with Jeanette and Effie. At the same time, Jeanette is beginning to win some recognition for her work. In a timeless quandary, she will have to decide how to balance art and love, or indeed if such a balance should even be attempted.

Where the Light Falls offers a tantalizing glimpse into Europe of the times. Jeanette, Effie and some of their friends spend the month of August in Brittany. Edward attends an art show of artists whose works weren’t permitted in The Salon, people like Monet, Cassatt and Degas. He spends some time in Italy and the south of France as well.

Characters grow, develop and change. My favorite was the character of Effie. Semi-despised by her nieces and nephews who she’s helped raise in her role as the washed-up, faded spinster aunt, she comes into her own as a independent woman in a new place where she’s accepted, or not, on her own terms. I also enjoyed watching Edward emerge from a lonely bachelorhood in Ohio to a man about town amongst the expatriates of Paris, and watching Jeanette develop as an artist and as a person, as she watches her friends face consequences of their actions.

Author Katherine Keenum drew upon her own family history as inspiration for this story. Her great-grandmother was dismissed from Vassar after helping another student elope and spent time in Paris. However, since none of her actual diaries have survived, Keenum drew on other sources and her own imagination to create the characters that people this novel. She has obviously researched the times and places she portrays, as they are well-presented and accurately drawn, and mix historical and fictional characters.

I’m pleased to announce that one of you can win a copy of Where the Light Falls. Just enter to win in the rafflecopter below.

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Email Author    |    Website About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a voracious reader with eclectic tastes who loves being part of the team at 5 Minutes for Books. She's lived in 7 countries and is currently in Oregon, where she spends most of her time with Iraqi refugees. She has 3 teens.

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rose February 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I do most of my reading in the evening, before bed.

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2 amyc February 10, 2013 at 10:27 pm

During the evening after the kids are in bed.

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3 Wehaf February 11, 2013 at 12:36 am

I mostly read in the hour before I go to sleep.

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4 Donna February 11, 2013 at 1:39 am

During the evening time

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5 Garrett February 11, 2013 at 11:39 am

At night when I’m having a hard time getting to sleep.

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6 anne February 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

right before I go to sleep.

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7 Liz V. February 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Any time I have a chance. Try to have a book with me always.

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8 paige aka mrs. bacon February 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Usually, whenever I can get a few minutes…naptime, locked in the bathroom, before bed.

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9 Cindi February 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

My paternal grandmother came over here from Calais, France,with her
parents on a cattle ship, around the time period
of this book..
I enjoy reading in our family room. I have a very comfortable
chair to read in…
Many thanks, Cindi

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10 Jean Lewis February 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

At night before bed. And on days off.

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11 Stephanie Hanes February 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I often read at night after the kids are in bed or sometimes when I’m watching them take a bath. ;)

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12 Carol Wong February 11, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I do most of my reading when everything is done. I really look forward to that time.

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13 Carol Wong February 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I do most of my reading in the evening when everything is done. Love that time of the day.

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14 Carol Wong February 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Sorry, accidently posted twice.

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15 Sandra K321 February 11, 2013 at 6:24 pm

In the evening when there isn’t anything on TV.

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16 DEBIJOT February 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Usually right before bedtime.

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17 Natalia February 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

When the kids are in school

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18 Lori D. February 12, 2013 at 11:31 am

I read a lot when I’m sick in bed.

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19 Jenny February 13, 2013 at 9:15 pm

At night, before I go to sleep.

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20 nannypanpan February 15, 2013 at 11:16 pm
21 Tammy Shelton February 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Bedtime, right before zzzzzzz

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22 Mozi Esmes Mom February 17, 2013 at 1:57 am

Late night – after kiddo is sleeping…

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23 June February 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

On long road trips in the car.

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24 Beth C February 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

Most of my reading is done at night before I go to sleep.

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25 Anita Yancey February 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I do most of my reading in the afternoon and early evening.

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26 Chuck February 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

I get most of my reading done when I’m not feeling well.

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27 Daniel M February 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm

in bed before sleep

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28 Karen Gonyea February 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm

In bed right before sleep :)

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29 Edna Williams February 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I do most of my reading during the evening before I go to sleep.

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30 Shannon Baas February 20, 2013 at 12:04 am

in the evening while relaxing.

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31 Don February 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

Sometimes during lunch hour.

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32 Linda White February 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm

In the evening before bedtime.

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33 Katie February 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

On lunch hour or before going to bed

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34 Van February 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm

More so on the weekends.

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35 danielle lima February 20, 2013 at 8:44 pm

at night before bed

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36 Darlene Ysaguirre February 20, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Late at night after hubby and kids go to sleep

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37 Kelli B February 21, 2013 at 5:21 am

I like to read before I go to sleep.

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38 april yedinak February 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

I read all day long- when I am eating, cooking, watching TV, etc. I always have a book with me.

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39 Hesper Fry February 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

I read in the evening before I go to bed.

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40 LOIS PAYTON February 21, 2013 at 11:48 am

in the afternoon, GOD BLESS YA’LL

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41 Beth C February 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

i read at night

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42 Rebecca Peters February 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I like to read BEfore bed

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43 Charlotte Padgett February 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I’m single so I read in bed.

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44 Jennifer Paige February 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I do most of my reading before bed, makes me sleepy.

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45 Paula Tavernie February 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm

At night!
ptavernie at yahoo dot com

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46 Tricha February 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I love to read before bedtime

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47 kathy pease February 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I usually read at night in bed

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48 Ed Nemmers February 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm

In a comfortable chair!

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49 Valerie Taylor Mabrey February 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm

in bed at night
vmkids3 at msn dot com

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50 Julia Packer February 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I read everynight after I lie down in bed, its peaceful and helps my eyes get ready for sleep

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51 mary renshaw February 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I read the most in the spring or summer while the kids are outside playing and I sit close by and watch and read. Also before bed!

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52 Stephanie Larison February 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Right before bed.

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53 Charlene S February 23, 2013 at 3:45 am

I like to read at night.

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54 Kari Flores February 23, 2013 at 6:10 am

In the middle of the day, outside relaxing on the porch.

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55 Lisa February 23, 2013 at 9:58 am

right before bed

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56 James Coyne February 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

In my bedroom

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57 Kimberly Hilbert February 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

I do most of my reading right before bed.

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58 Caitlin McClure February 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I mostly read before sleep

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59 cassandra mccann February 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

my living room

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60 Allison February 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Before bed! All curled up

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61 rachel travis February 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm

On the couch in front of the fireplace or in bed!

:)

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62 susan smoaks February 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

i do most of my reading in the bathtub

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