Creole Son

Creole-Son185x280Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans

by Michael Llewellyn

In 1872, French painter Edgar Degas is disillusioned by a lackluster career and haunted by the Prussian siege of Paris and the bloodbath of the Commune. Seeking personal and professional rebirth, he journeys to New Orleans, birthplace of his Creole mother. He is horrified to learn he has exchanged one city in crisis for another—post-Civil War New Orleans is a corrupt town occupied by hostile Union troops and suffering under the heavy hand of Reconstruction. He is further shocked to find his family deeply involved in the violent struggle to reclaim political power at terrible costs. Despite the chaos swirling around him, Degas sketches and paints with fervor and manages to reinvent himself and transition his style from neoclassical into the emerging world of Impressionism. He ultimately became one of the masters of the new movement, but how did New Orleans empower Degas to fulfill this destiny? The answer may be found in the impeccably researched, richly imagined historical novel, Creole Son.

(103,000 words; e-book $9.99 USD, paperback $20 USD)

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Reviews of Creole Son

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Creole Son is a very enjoyable read. Notionally it’s a biography that centres on the two years of Degas’s life when he left Paris and stayed with his family in New Orleans, but it’s written in the present tense with a lot of dialogue. It’s largely fictionalized but very much based on the facts, and it gives you a terrific feel for that period in American history.” –Dr. Robin Hesketh, Cam, the Magazine of Cambridge Alumni

“In 1872, Edgar Degas left Paris to visit New Orleans, the birthplace of his deceased mother and current home of his brothers, cousins, and an uncle. Paris was still trying to recover from the Prussian invasion and the bloodbath following the Commune, and New Orleans was suffering from federal occupation following the Civil War. Degas could not share or understand his relatives’ racial attitudes, but he was drawn into the battles between Radical Republicans and Crescent City Democrats, some historical and others invented. Degas found inspiration in Cybèle, a fictional mixed-race entertainer, but their relationship was complicated by the Louisiana racial codes. His nearly blind real-life cousin/sister-in-law Estelle provided insight into his artistic transformation and his own problems with loss of vision. The author represents Edgar’s artistic sense with such similes as ‘He felt as lifeless as the cadaver in Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.’ One of the strengths of the book is a brief author’s note which clearly delineates what is fictional and what actually occurred.”Historical Novel Society Review

“With skill and sensitivity, Llewellyn captures the interaction of art and violence, ugliness and beauty, the transition of an artist, a man and a world.” —Barbara Hambly, author of A Free Man of Color