Sofie & Cecilia by Katherine AshenburgSofie & Cecilia by Katherine Ashenburg

Sofie & Cecilia

byKatherine Ashenburg

Hardcover | March 27, 2018

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A surprising, rich and beautiful first novel about women's friendship for readers of Paula McLain and Elena Ferrante, by a bestselling non-fiction author who has brilliantly turned her hand to fiction.

In Sofie & Cecilia, beloved non-fiction author and journalist Katherine Ashenburg draws upon her formidable skill and maturity as a writer to craft an extraordinary and splendid debut novel. This is the story of a lifelong female friendship, set in the fascinating art world of Sweden between 1900 and 1940, just as modern art and the beginnings of the Scandinavian mid-century modern design movement were inspiring a creative revolution across northern Europe. Loosely based on the lives of celebrated artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn ("Nils Olsson" and "Lars Vogt" in the novel), Ashenburg transports us behind both the public and domestic scenes--and canvasses--of these larger-than-life men to reveal the lesser-known but equally astounding and rich stories of the women who married them: restlessly creative artist-in-her-own-right Sofie Olsson, and fiercely private and intelligent curator Cecilia Vogt.
     Here is a gorgeous gem of a book: surprising, unique, layered with insight into the nuances of female friendship as it stretches, changes, and deepens in unexpected ways over a lifetime. Woven effortlessly through this tapestry, like a beautiful motif, is absorbing detail about Scandinavian painting, design, and textile work; European history and sexual politics; the country life, city salons, vibrant art, and folklore of Sweden; and the secrets and challenges of bright, talented women juggling marriage, career, individual aspirations, and family life inside an artist's household in the early twentieth century.
KATHERINE ASHENBURG is the author of three books and many magazine and newspaper articles. She has written for The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life, among other publications. Her books include The Mourner's Dance: What We Do When People Die, and The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, which was published in 12 cou...
Title:Sofie & CeciliaFormat:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 8.53 × 6.01 × 1.32 inPublished:March 27, 2018Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735272689

ISBN - 13:9780735272682

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Artfully Literary This is a literary, fictionalized biographical story. As such it does not have a climax. It is even and true to life throughout. This makes it possibly boring for many people. However, if you understand that the author, Katherine Ashenburg, normally writes non-fiction then you can perhaps come around to the genius of this story. The Story As opposed to plot this is more of a character study. Ashenburg bases her main two women (and their husbands) on two women who actually existed. While the names, some of the details and events are fictionalized; the core storyline is based on actual events and people. The story is split into two perspectives Sofie first, and then Cecilia. It's a little tedious at times to experience the same event from both sides; but Ashenburg limits the number of times that happens. Artistry This is not a fast-paced story. Instead it's very lyrical and literary. The way the art is described, the people, the situations and the thoughts of our characters are all done with a gorgeous literary style that I admire. Ashenburg did not lightly write this story and while the pacing is a bit slow; the overall artistry of the story matches up well with the main topic of Swedish art. WWII This is an odd book that overlaps part of it's timeline with World War II. Odd in that the war is a relatively small factor. Our main characters mostly live in Sweden which is a neutral, unengaged country. It was interesting to me to feel what many in the neutral countries might have felt while the whole world was at war. This was a very different way to see the war for me and I, while it's a small part of the overall story, it made a large impact on me. Overall If you are interested in Swedish culture or Swedish art then you are likely to enjoy this book. If you don't mind a character study as opposed to exciting events this this is for you. Sofie & Cecilia is a different type of book but that doesn't make it a poor read. I found it to be an interesting read and would merely want others to be aware of what they are getting into at the forefront. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Date published: 2018-09-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Tale of Two Lives I feel as if this book is either going to be a hit or miss for readers. If you are a fan of literary fiction, this may be the read for you; however, for those that enjoy more of a contemporary or modern style of writing, this may be a boring read. As much as I can appreciate literary fiction, it's not my favourite genre so sometimes I can struggle when reading these style of novels. For the first half of the novel, I have to say the story was fairly slow-paced. I could extend that pacing to the length of the novel but I noticed once I was halfway through, I became more interested in the story and it was less of a task to finish reading. In all honesty, it's not an exciting novel. It's a novelization on the lives of two women throughout their lifespan (excluding childhood) and how their lives are separate, different, and also how they intersect. It does have important feministic components involving women having a career/passion, motherhood, and relationships. It shows the obvious difference between men and women in that time in history, allowing the reader to compare and contrast similarities and differences to this current age. Even if I was not a huge fan of the novel as a whole, I did find the characters of both Sofie and Cecilia very interesting. They were both full of depth, strength, and a kind of resilience in the decisions they made regarding their lives. Overall, if you are a fan of literary fiction that has a slower pace but is more realistic to everyday life, this one may be for you. If you are looking for something with a quicker pace that entertains, I would suggest to pick up a different novel. ***Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for sending me an advanced reader's copy from a giveaway***
Date published: 2018-03-10

Editorial Reviews

NATIONAL BESTSELLER“Sofie and Cecilia is magnificent. The characters are so tenderly and deeply explored, I couldn't put it down . . . A joyful experience . . . One of the best things I've read in years.” —Sarah Polley   “A wonderful book, full of exquisite moments, that cleverly reminds us how partial our understanding of every life-event is. I love Ashenburg’s wisdom about women, about the evolution of a marriage, about how we reach a certain age and accumulate so much experience and yet life remains mysterious, even thrilling. A remarkable achievement.” —Rosemary Sullivan“Closely and beautifully observed. . . . As readers, we experience both the affirmation of women’s friendships, and the challenge of devoting oneself to a life of artistic creation.” —Jane Urquhart   “Sofie & Cecilia paints a marvelously detailed, slyly witty portrait of two women of talent married to successful painters in early twentieth-century Sweden—when girls might dabble in drawing lessons, but must put aside any artistic ambitions after marriage. Their growing independence is fueled by their friendship, sustained over the length of their lives. Fans of Elena Ferrante (not to mention Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, whose books are a bonding point) will revel in this wise and intensely moving story of two women navigating a world that expected women to weave, knit and embroider in the shadow of the real artists, their husbands. Nevertheless, they persisted.” —Marni Jackson“Katherine Ashenburg slips her needle delicately beneath the skin to reveal the anatomy of an artist. This is the best kind of writing about art that is an art itself. So many pleasures here for the reader: delights of dress and décor and food and furnishings, all of the made things that make life better. Through the graceful procession of the years, strong strands of friendship tie these women together: their love of art, and books, and intelligent observation of the tangled knot of marriage.” —Marina Endicott, Giller shortlisted author of Good to a Fault   “Against the luscious backdrop of the early twentieth-century Swedish art world, Sofie & Cecilia offers a fascinating, intimate look at the many variations of female love: maternal love, marital love, love of industry and craft, love of beauty. Most of all it is a celebration of the love that can exist between women friends. An intelligent, tender, highly pleasurable novel.” —Barbara Gowdy, author of Little Sister and The Romantic“Sofie & Cecilia is a coming of age novel in the very best sense of the expression. The story is about two women, the wives of celebrated Swedish artists, who need to survive their marriages (both of which were satisfying and distressing) in order to become the women and the artists (of the brush and the pen) they were meant to be. That is an encouraging and rich theme. And speaking of rich, the novel rewards the reader with the pleasures we (or at least I) normally associate with biography and history because it has so many detailed and informative descriptions not only of painting, arts and crafts, but the complexity of women’s domestic lives in the first third of the twentieth century.” —Sandra Martin, writer and Globe & Mail journalist“Elegantly constructed . . . [Sofie & Cecilia] is rich in meticulous and often fascinating detail about Swedish life and art.” —Quill & Quire