The French Impressionist
Publication date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rosemary is fifteen and gloriously free, on her own for the very first time. Part of an exchange program for aspiring artists, she arrives in sunny southern France with a single goal: she doesn’t plan to leave, ever. She wants a new life, a new family, and a new identity. But her situation, crafted from lies big and small, is precarious.
Desperate to escape haunting images from her past and a stage one helicopter parent, Rosemary struggles to hide her lack of artistic talent and a communication disorder that has tormented her all her life. She believes her dream of a new start will come true, until she unwittingly finds herself enveloped in a decades-old mystery that threatens to ruin her only chance for success. Determined to stay, Rosemary must choose whether or not she’ll tell the biggest lie of all, even if it means destroying the life of someone she cares about.
Dramatic, heartwarming, and full of teenage angst, The French Impressionist perfectly captures the struggle of those who feel they have no voice, and also shows the courage it takes to speak up and show the world who we really are.
I look around in desperation. I have to do something. What do I paint? The square, the pink buildings, the silver tram whirring by? My eyes fall on a pole not far away, near the tram stop. At the top is what looks like a carved man kneeling down on a tiny platform, like he’s meditating or something. There are several more of them, lining the edge of the checkerboard pavement along either side of the metal tracks. Pole guys. Should I paint them? Sylvie notices where my gaze falls and her face glows. She points and chatters in an explosion of French like a cloudburst of sound and I do not understand a single word. Not one. And then she waits, and I’m supposed to answer. Great. I smile and duck my head toward my canvas, placing my chin in my hand like I’m deep in concentration. Sylvie laughs and stops talking. And I still have to paint. Do it, Ro! Paint something! Anything! Forgetting the metal pole guys, I take a deep breath, dip my brush into a color that looks a bit like the color of the sky, and smear it across the top of the canvas. The blue is too dark, so I mix in a dab of white, and it turns milky gray. That doesn’t work for the sky, so I decide to paint the base of another fountain I see nearby. I move the brush in a circle as I try to create the fountain’s round shape and end up with something that looks like a large toilet. I dip the brush into more paint, but the brush accidentally touches another color, and suddenly my toilet fountain turns a muddy brown. I toy with the idea of “accidentally” pushing my easel into the fountain. And then a dog barks, and a shrill woman’s voice shouts, and I glance up to see a short, blonde woman guiding a greyhound that’s almost as tall as she is on a leash. The woman wears a white dress with horizontal black stripes, and white leggings with vertical red stripes. Her white-blond hair is braided, much like Sylvie’s, but the braids are uneven and lumpy, bundled up into a tangle on the top of her head, like a pile of frayed rope. The woman lets her dog off its leash and it bounds into the toilet/fountain I’d been trying to recreate, joyfully leaping and splashing in the water. Then the woman sits at the edge of the fountain, tosses a cigarette into the water, and lights another. I watch the light glint on the water as it splashes, and the haze of smoke that circles the woman’s head, and then I notice that the woman is made up of shapes. She’s a striped watermelon on red licorice legs. I’m so desperate at this point that I figure she’s as good a subject as any for my painting. I dip my brush into more paint.
Rebecca Bischoff currently resides in Idaho with her family and works as a speech-language pathologist. She loves helping others, especially kids and teenagers, discover their own unique voices and learn to share who they are with the world. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, spend time with her kids, and make awkward attempts to learn foreign languages. She is drawn to all things both French and Italian, used bookstores, and anything made out of chocolate.