The God of Spring by Arabella Edge

19 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

In 1818, Théodore Géricault began painting his masterpiece on the shipwreck of the Medusa. It was a politically sensitive subject at the time in that the government-appointed captain of the ship abandoned its crew and passengers to die, fleeing to safety on a lifeboat. The God of Spring – so titled, explains the author, in accordance with the concepts of “self-sacrifice, celebration and death” that stem from the Aztec God of Spring – tells of Géricault’s obsession with his work. Indeed, obsession may not be a strong enough word to describe the artist’s state of mind. Several times while reading this tale, I wondered if he bordered on insanity.

Starting with Géricault’s illicit love affair with his aunt, which he ended when he became obsessed with the Medusa, Edge takes the reader back in time to relive the last six years of his life. You experience his insecurities in love, friendship and fame, his knowledge about art and painting as well as what he learns – about the composition of color, illness and human suffering – in order to produce The Raft of the Medusa. You endure the instability of his mind as he obsesses over bringing to life the survivors’ story.

Edge is a gifted storyteller. I never thought I would have an interest in how a masterpiece came to be. But without ever becoming sidetracked by the political scandal itself, Edge draws the reader in to Géricault’s work and the last days of his life. Rating: Very Good. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.