Review: Artist’s Model by Z A Maxfield

From the anthology “Artistically Yours” published by Torquere Press

Emile Laurent had a child’s fascination for artist Auguste Fournier. Now a grown man, he pursues Fournier with a passion born of worship. Fournier has denied his nature for the whole of his life. Paralyzed with fear, he rejects Emile’s advances, even in the face of desire that threatens to consume them both.

Review by Erastes

The old adage is “write a good beginning” and Maxfield does this; for me it was an irresistable beginning.

My first glimpse of Fournier, the man he was before he became the legendary artist, came when I was but six years old. He was so striking then, even more so than later, his countenance too beautiful to take in at once. He sat at the table on the balcony of our flat and smoked, laughing with my father while my mother filled his glass. I could only watch from inside the tiny drawing room as I was relegated to writing my name, Emile, over and over again until my hand shook with the effort.

That day, my stern-faced nurse had eyes that shifted, like mine, to the window where Fournier brushed his loose golden hair with a casual hand. He was so fascinating to me then, wearing smoked-glass spectacles that hid his eyes. I should have had his image in my head forever, even had I never seen him again, but when I did, the shock came to me that I had loved him all that time. All that time.

It certainly hooked me, and that’s the main point!

It starts as a charming read, the interplay between Fournier and Emile warmed my heart and it read in a very realistic way, I thoroughly believed that it was a conversation between a 40 year old man and a love-struck teenager, but when the relationship suddenly takes a turn I was thrown in the best kind of way–for the ingenue was suddenly in charge and the older man was helpless, floundering to fight his nature and everything he wants.

The prose great throughout but at times is heartstoppingly good–I found myself holding my breath, gripping the edge of the desk because the breathless desperation of the characters poured out of the page.

He leaned in to kiss me, gentle and promising, his lips tender and passionate. His face held a terrible beauty, a kind of mad light that I at once recognized and responded to.

It really paints the tale of a man who has fought his nature, found nothing but loss and despair in his homosexuality, and that mad, fluttering joy of someone who has wanted something all his life, and then gets it.

As I often find when I read a short story that touches me like this, I find myself wish for the novel that it never became, in so few pages, Maxfield spreads unknown backstory to intrigues us–the friendship between Fournier and Emile’s parents, and Fournier’s vow not to succumb to the desires he feels, Emile’s upbringing and everything inbetween. It would have made a wonderful novel and I hope that the author will attempt it–or another historical one day.

I haven’t read Ms Maxfield’s work before, because up to now she’s written contemporaries, but if this is the standard she writes at, then she deserves to call the likes of Andre Aciman her peers. So yes – put me at the head of the queue if she ever writes another historical.

Author’s website

Buy at Torquere Press

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7 Responses

  1. Wow! Thank you very much. I never imagined that I’d ever see anything I wrote on Speak Its Name…

    And I admit to being completely intimidated by historical fiction… But yes! I would like to do more about Emil someday…

  2. You write ‘em historical and you will be reviewed. I just wish I was ten people so I could review the entire list.

    And yes. I shall be sitting here with my arms folded until you do.

  3. Me, too. I’d love to see more with them. :)

  4. Sounds like a beautiful read. Even from those few excerpts I had a wonderful sense of place.

  5. I sometimes have to wonder if Ms. Maxfield truly understands how brilliant she is.
    Rarely caught in cliched trope, she nonetheless takes the most easily identifiable situations and turns them into something magical.
    Her language ranges from bare bones simple to exquisitely poetic, but each is always perfectly placed, and never out of hand for the character or the situation.
    Her worlds are rarely hard edged reality, but I count that as a valuable skill, to soften corners and sharp edges and still never distort the underlying foundations into a mere parody. There are any number of self styled “professional literary authors” who could do much worse than take lessons from her.
    Am I biased? You bet, and happily so. Z. A. Maxfield writes exactly what I enjoy reading most, and in the end, isnt that all that matters? That we like the work well enough to keep reading it, and thereby shed our objectivity in the process?
    I think it’s called “being a fan.”

  6. I agree, Erastes. I admit that I can be nonplussed by many things which should have moved me in some way, but something like this story comes along, as beautiful in its description and sentiment as the most brilliant sunrise, and I find I am more than capable of shedding a tear (or several) in the presence of sheer perfection. To merely say “it moved me” would be a gross understatement.

    Thank you very much for the review!

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