Monet & Oscar
By Joe Byrd
The Essence of Light
A Historical Novel
It was the end of WWI when Oscar, an American soldier in a French Army hospital, learned of his mother’s death. With no reason to return home, Oscar decides to remain in France and sets out to find his father, an impressionist painter whose identity he never knew. Through a twist of fate, Oscar is offered a job working in Monet’s world-famous garden at Giverny. Hopeful the most renowned Impressionist can help him find his father, Oscar searches for clues as Monet, tired and disheartened by his deteriorating eyesight, introduces him to his previous painting venues and Impressionist friends.
Thus begins an enthralling and beautiful story filled with art, love, passion, self-discovery and a reconciliation with the past. Set against the backdrop of Monet’s famous garden, this book offers a new, historically accurate depiction of Monet told through the eyes of his fictional son.
Details of Monet's colorful life are accurate in almost every case. Oscar is a fictional character who is introduced to help illustrate the personality of Monet and enliven the reading experience.
Monet & Oscar Reviews
Page Turner Writing Award 2021 Finalist
Through rich details and lush descriptions, Joe Byrd evokes the good life in France: the love of art, the colors of the light, delicious food, road trips, and marvelous scenery. Perfect armchair travel for those longing to visit France ---- with a riveting romantic plot, and a convincing historical reconstruction of the era and its pleasures which provided inspiration to the impressionist painters. – Linda Lappin, author of Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne
In Joe Byrd’s Monet and Oscar we are introduced to Claude Monet in his twilight years. Grouchy, going blind and pampered by his family, the patriarch is ensconced in Giverny, his own personal Shangri-la. Byrd gives us insight into Monet’s life and working habits, and sheds light on just how revered and well-connected Monet was in his dotage. - Lilianne Milgrom, acclaimed author of L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece
Replete with twists, with lovely scenes that could be mini paintings themselves, Byrd leaves his reader both satisfied but also wanting to know more about his characters, in real life and in fiction. For those who love art and fiction, or who can’t get enough of Monet and his world, this is a don’t-miss novel. – Drēma Drudge, Author of Victorine
Joe Byrd’s historical fiction novel, Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light, is a passionate look at the early twentieth-century, post-World War I era. The author has taken the life of a famous Impressionist artist, and woven a tale of mystery and intrigue, and, yes, romance, too, into an epic tale much like Irving Stone’s novels about Vincent Van Gogh and Michelangelo. – Reader’s Favorite
A young man on a personal quest and an aged artist on a journey of reminiscence - this book is a homage to Monet's illustrious life. – Reedsy Discover
The talents of Joe Byrd shines through in his debut, Monet & Oscar. – AmyBooksy Blog
Monet & Oscar is a wonderful historical fiction novel with mystery, romance, and adventure. There were twists and surprises throughout that kept the story moving and me turning the pages. I recommend this book for readers of historical fiction, those who would enjoy a satisfying tale featuring one of the greatest Impressionist artists, and even someone who would love to experience this time and place in France without leaving home to do so. – Karen Siddall, Boy’s Mom Reads!
…the most enjoyable novel, that I have read this year. – Goodreads Librarian
This delightful, deeply researched first novel draws a complex portrait of Monet the painter and patriarch, through the eyes of a fictional addition to Monet's household, Oscar Bonhomme. – Amazon Reviewer
He drops you without effort into that time, that place. – Bookbub Review
My Search for
My Garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.
I first found Claude Monet while sitting among 300 students in a college Humanities 101 class. He spoke to me. He told me about color, brush strokes, and impressions rather than photographic reproduction of live scenes. He became a lifelong friend who helped a boy from West Virginia's coal region learn about art.
Ten years later, I was riding in a 1950 Cadillac sedan, the kind the mob bosses used, into Paris to deliver it to the French film industry. It was late at night when we arrived at a small smoky restaurant in the Contrescarpe neighborhood. I woke under a glass ceiling covering a porch/bedroom blinded by the spring sun the following day. I was in love with Paris and the cobblestone streets and the ancient buildings that surrounded me from that moment on.
Monet and I didn't visit on that trip, but when I returned home to California, I saw Monet's paintings at the de Young Museum in San Francisco for the first time. I was hooked on his paintings. We have been close friends ever since. I attended every exhibit I could find and visited many of our nation's top museums, from San Francisco to Chicago to New York and Washington.
At every stop, I purchased books about Monet.
Each book was a revelation about his life and art. Only one thing missing. The authors didn't devote enough space to describing Monet as a person. I scrutinized each one looking for the motivations and personality of the artist who created such masterpieces.
I traveled to Paris to learn more. The Musée d'Orsay was my first top. There were many fine paintings and several books I didn't have in my collection. But I thought there must be more. By chance, I found the Musée Marmottan where Monet's private collection was housed. I boarded the Metro that took me to 2 Rue Louis Boilly, where I walked through a park full of excited children to this Empire period townhouse that contains 300 of Monet's finest work and many paintings from his later life that I hadn't seen before. Still little about Monet, the man was available.
I visited his home at Giverny and spent the night in his son, Michael's home. I began to find him in Monet's garden and around his lily pond. At dawn the following day, I walked the fields where he painted to feel and see what he experienced. When I returned to Monet's garden, I found him sitting on a bench staring at the lilies in his pond. We didn't speak. I was reluctant to disturb his focus on the scene that he spent the last decades of his life painting. The essence of light reflected by the flowers and water had captured his soul, and there was little room for anything else.
As I roamed his house and studio, I began to feel the presence of the master. With each return trip, I thought I understood him better. The Japanese woodblock prints in his dining room stunned me. I was bedeviled by three questions. What were these prints? Why were they here? What role did they play in his art? From then on, I was also searching for answers to these questions to understand the Japanese connection to Impressionism. This search led me to a greater understanding of Monet and the Impressionist movement, included in this book.
I returned to California and began reading and re-reading the research material I had collected. I purchased more. Most notably, Daniel Wildenstein's "Monet: The Triumph of Impressionism," a four-volume set that contains every one of Monet's paintings plus an extensive history of Monet's life. Ross King's "Mad Enchantment" was another revealing account of Monet's final years. I also attended Japanese woodblock print exhibitions in San Francisco and the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. At last, I was getting a clearer picture of Monet and his fellow painters.
This thirty-year research project led me to commit to writing a book about Monet, the man, and his family. After ten years of writing and rewriting the opening scene in my head, I finally sat down to write it in 2019. I chose to write a novel instead of a biography because fiction is more accessible for readers to understand history. This novel is the result of my years of discovery. I hope you will feel my effort has been worth it and that your time has been well spent reading Monet & Oscar: Essence of Light.
Joe Byrd’s journalism and communications college degrees inspired him to become a pioneer in electronic publishing. As a McGraw-Hill editor, he managed a computer publishing system. In the new PC software industry, he wrote one of his two books using PC desktop publishing software, the first for a major publishing house, Prentice Hall.
In his fifty-year career, he published magazines, magazines and research reports and launched one of the first digital photography websites. At one point, he published six public websites at the same time. His novel, Monet & Oscar is the first in a series of historical novels. In many ways, it follows his lifetime dedication to being a communications pioneer.
I have a booth in the Bay Area Book Festival Author's Pavilion on Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7. Please drop by. I'd love to discuss Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light.