by Ann Ireland
The moment 19-year-old Simone Paris walks into Otto Guest's art class, she knows that she must have him. Old enough to be her father, Otto is everything her ascetic, willfully out-of-touch parents are not: worldly, sensual, gregarious, at ease with modernism, a risk-taker. In short, an artist. She sets out to seduce him - and succeeds. He will be her mentor, her lever into...more The moment 19-year-old Simone Paris walks into Otto Guest's art class, she knows that she must have him. Old enough to be her father, Otto is everything her ascetic, willfully out-of-touch parents are not: worldly, sensual, gregarious, at ease with modernism, a risk-taker. In short, an artist. She sets out to seduce him - and succeeds. He will be her mentor, her lever into the larger world beyond the sedate boundaries of home. When he invites her to travel in Mexico with him, she readily agrees. Soon she finds herself in an unfamiliar world of heat and grit, immersed in an intensely erotic relationship, thirsty for all that Otto can teach her, yet struggling to maintain her claim on his emotional life. As they stalk, dodge, and confront one another within the confines of a tiny Mexican village - one reaching toward the future, the other grappling with the past - Otto begins to teach Simone lessons she never wanted to learn: that love is not the force that drives every affair, and that knowing theories about art is not the same as understanding how to live.
Publication Date: April 25, 1997 (being re-issued)
This book is a new release of a novel originally published for the first time in 1997. Despite that, the story itself still feels fresh. There are a few times when the technology is obviously outdated, like when the instructor goes to a local bar to use a payphone, but it doesn't make the story itself seem outdated. When Otto returns to Simone's life after a long absence, she is surprised by the difference in his appearance. In today's world, the internet probably would have made it possible for the two to have kept track of each other, even if they hadn't kept in touch.
Still, the story is timeless. A young, optimistic student, aching to escape the confines of her parents' small house, who falls in love with her older, more worldly instructor. She believes that the sexual attraction between them means more than it does, and allows herself to be swept away by the romance of the affair, even following him on what promises to be a romantic adventure to Mexico.
Instead, Simone learns some hard lessons about life, love, and relationships. When Otto's wife (separated) and son, who is almost her age, show up, she begins to see him as he really is, rather than how she wishes him to be. The novel tells the story of their affair through the eyes of an older and wiser Simone, looking back at everything from a more mature perspective.
This is a beautifully written book, honest and at times uncomfortable, but certainly the story of one too many young, naïve girls on the verge of becoming women, and the older men who hope to recapture some of their lost youth through them.
Kat's Rating: A Good Read
An engrossing novel by an extremely talented Canadian writer.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.