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The Passion Dream Book

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"The Passion Dream Book" travels from the Italian Renaissance, when a girl spends her days spying on a young Michelangelo and experiences the divided love of wanting the artist and wanting to be the artist, to the early years of the twentieth century, when the novel follows Romy March, a descendant of the Renaissance girl, and Augustine Marks, who are both artists. The nov "The Passion Dream Book" travels from the Italian Renaissance, when a girl spends her days spying on a young Michelangelo and experiences the divided love of wanting the artist and wanting to be the artist, to the early years of the twentieth century, when the novel follows Romy March, a descendant of the Renaissance girl, and Augustine Marks, who are both artists. The novel is an imaginative mix of fact and fiction, history and story, about the two enduring, occasionally conflicting passions of love and work. As Romy March and Augustine Marks migrate from place to place, separately and together, their love is their home, and their home is each other. The outsider lives they lead take them from one cultural scene to another: silent-era Hollywood, the Harlem Renaissance, Paris in the late 1920s, and back to the United States. The novel touches on the migratory habits of artists' colonies; the search for and creation of identity as an artist and a lover; and how one lives when tradition doesn't hold.


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"The Passion Dream Book" travels from the Italian Renaissance, when a girl spends her days spying on a young Michelangelo and experiences the divided love of wanting the artist and wanting to be the artist, to the early years of the twentieth century, when the novel follows Romy March, a descendant of the Renaissance girl, and Augustine Marks, who are both artists. The nov "The Passion Dream Book" travels from the Italian Renaissance, when a girl spends her days spying on a young Michelangelo and experiences the divided love of wanting the artist and wanting to be the artist, to the early years of the twentieth century, when the novel follows Romy March, a descendant of the Renaissance girl, and Augustine Marks, who are both artists. The novel is an imaginative mix of fact and fiction, history and story, about the two enduring, occasionally conflicting passions of love and work. As Romy March and Augustine Marks migrate from place to place, separately and together, their love is their home, and their home is each other. The outsider lives they lead take them from one cultural scene to another: silent-era Hollywood, the Harlem Renaissance, Paris in the late 1920s, and back to the United States. The novel touches on the migratory habits of artists' colonies; the search for and creation of identity as an artist and a lover; and how one lives when tradition doesn't hold.

30 review for The Passion Dream Book

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suanne Laqueur

    I thought it was delicious. It made me want to be a bohemian. It made me want to take pictures. It’s a very beautiful and poignant love story as well, and thank God for happy endings (I won’t say any more than that).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meg Sanchez

    This book is for artists and romantics written by an artist and a romantic. It's not just a love story, it's a rose-colored view of life which I believe is the most beautiful way of looking at our lives inspite of all its pitfalls. This book moved me and inspired me to live my life as if Bernini or Shakespeare or Baudelaire or Nureyev or Chopin or Michelangelo were a part of me everyday. <3 This book is for artists and romantics written by an artist and a romantic. It's not just a love story, it's a rose-colored view of life which I believe is the most beautiful way of looking at our lives inspite of all its pitfalls. This book moved me and inspired me to live my life as if Bernini or Shakespeare or Baudelaire or Nureyev or Chopin or Michelangelo were a part of me everyday. <3

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is one of my all time favorite books. The courage and brevity of the heroine inspires me to take that bold step forward even when the way is not clear.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janaree Nore

    I've read this book twice and often give it away. The first section, kind of a pre-amble to the story, turns people off. It was meant to give an extended generational importance to the plot line. Once you get past that, the rest of the book is unoffensive in anyway (I should hope). This author made her fame with How to make an American Quilt which then was made into a major motion picture.In my opinion, the Passion Dream Book is better. It is about two artists, he and she, that spend a lifetime t I've read this book twice and often give it away. The first section, kind of a pre-amble to the story, turns people off. It was meant to give an extended generational importance to the plot line. Once you get past that, the rest of the book is unoffensive in anyway (I should hope). This author made her fame with How to make an American Quilt which then was made into a major motion picture.In my opinion, the Passion Dream Book is better. It is about two artists, he and she, that spend a lifetime trying to do their art. Their passion to do photography, paint, sculpt etc takes them to Harlem Renaissance dinner parties as well as Paris during the war. Although their love relationship has to take second place to their art passions in order for it to survive. Often the storyline is bittersweet. I've told many people that this is my signature book....that I wish I would have written it. Friends have told me that the book isn't as great as I think it is. One friend thinks that the author threw everything out the window at the end because she didn't know how to end it. I think she ended it in the open-ended don't-make-any-decisions way that many stories (and movies) end in now a days. Let me know what your thoughts were when you finished.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    "I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was thrilled to be taken around the world by these splendidly loveable characters." Full Review; http://bookywooks.blogspot.com/2010/0... "I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was thrilled to be taken around the world by these splendidly loveable characters." Full Review; http://bookywooks.blogspot.com/2010/0...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I love this book and have read it about once a year since my first read. The story is so unique from unique voices during very artistically and socially poingnant times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Good read, thought I was reading a poem, it flowed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    Again, pure magic. Romance, adventure, life. Oh, and interracial romance way before it was accepted and so subtly done. Just a lovely book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenelle

    Otto knows how to tell a love story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hollie Rose

    (If this review, written by me in 2003, is true, I should read this book again!) *** It's very rich and filled with subtle insights into what life is really like. I love the writing style and the characters too. Especially Romy, the main female of the story - she's wonderfully strong and true to herself. It starts with a bit of personal history from Michaelangelo's day then jumps to the story of the love of Augustine and Romy in the 20s, the 30s, the 40s and even into the 50s. It carries me along (If this review, written by me in 2003, is true, I should read this book again!) *** It's very rich and filled with subtle insights into what life is really like. I love the writing style and the characters too. Especially Romy, the main female of the story - she's wonderfully strong and true to herself. It starts with a bit of personal history from Michaelangelo's day then jumps to the story of the love of Augustine and Romy in the 20s, the 30s, the 40s and even into the 50s. It carries me along on the wings of the hearts of artists. I read it in small bits easily and hungrily, absorbing every word. I didn't want it to end. It's simple and stunning the way events are related. Definitely the best book I've read so far this year.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I was a little confused at first by the change of time in that she set up the renaissance and then didn't really go back to it. Slow in pieces but good. I was a little confused at first by the change of time in that she set up the renaissance and then didn't really go back to it. Slow in pieces but good.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Rowley

    I re-read this book after about 15 years and it's still a favorite. I re-read this book after about 15 years and it's still a favorite.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen Hogan

    A young girl dreams of being an artist in Italy in the 1600's intertwined with the story of a girl with the same dream in 1900 Amercia. Read 80 pages, but it was not compelling enough to finish A young girl dreams of being an artist in Italy in the 1600's intertwined with the story of a girl with the same dream in 1900 Amercia. Read 80 pages, but it was not compelling enough to finish

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pau

    This book is slow and a bit disjointed. If you're looking for a fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting book, this isn't for you. This book was meant to be poignant. It feels more like a series of short stories starring the same character. Its lack of flow may be intentional and was meant to convey time that had passed, a character's emotional development, as well as the introduction of a significant setting. The "disjointed" feel left me confused. It started with the world of Giulietta Marcel. Well, This book is slow and a bit disjointed. If you're looking for a fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting book, this isn't for you. This book was meant to be poignant. It feels more like a series of short stories starring the same character. Its lack of flow may be intentional and was meant to convey time that had passed, a character's emotional development, as well as the introduction of a significant setting. The "disjointed" feel left me confused. It started with the world of Giulietta Marcel. Well, no. It actually started with art lessons. This is a recurring team in the book. I found all those parts boring as the author failed to say anything new or say things in a new way. The narrative was separate from the characters and the book could have done without it. The book fast forwards suddenly into post-WWI Los Angeles where we meet the "real" main characters: Romy March and Augustine Marks. For the most part, it is Romy's story, with a little bit of Augustine. The two are star-crossed lovers and their love story is as complicated as it guests. I suppose this was to depict stereotypical of artists (the book leans towards this). The love story is interesting enough. The whole first bit in Florence wouldn't tie in with the book until very late. Giulietta's box is kept by Romy, a memento from an ancestor. I didn't realize until the very end that Giulietta's quick wrap-up was a clue to Romy and Augustine's fate (because it's just that scattered). The narrative is dry. I like dry but this is just too dry for me, a bit like Twilight's narrative. The ending is decent and I quite liked it. Overall, not my most favorite book. However, I read this book for a long time. I'm thinking that I lost a bit because I didn't read it continuously. Granted, it was difficult to pick every time. Last, the cover is gorgeous.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    "...in general, she carries herself as if she believes the world is entirely unconcerned with her." (p.19) "...nothing was more important than his fabulous solitary world. The universe over which he ruled." (p.26) "...you all think in gold, and there isn't enough gold in the world to pay for what I make. You decide the price, I don’t, because we both know it has no price." (p.28) "She wants to say 'I don’t think the rest of the world ever gives me a thought'. She wants to say, 'Then why did you exp "...in general, she carries herself as if she believes the world is entirely unconcerned with her." (p.19) "...nothing was more important than his fabulous solitary world. The universe over which he ruled." (p.26) "...you all think in gold, and there isn't enough gold in the world to pay for what I make. You decide the price, I don’t, because we both know it has no price." (p.28) "She wants to say 'I don’t think the rest of the world ever gives me a thought'. She wants to say, 'Then why did you expose me to paintings and dancing and music and books? To teach me to admire but not to covet? To show me that it noble to love the arts without loving the artist? And what about the gifts of paints, pencils, and paper? Was it all just to fill up my childhood time?'" (p.73) "...her grades began to slip because all the classrooms and ideas and lessons made her claustrophobic. The students were too passive, the teachers too dictatorial, and Romy felt she was suffocating, fighting for air that was altogether too thin." (p.74) "I never said I was the best. Maybe I could have been better. But the public likes what I do, what I have done. Somehow I was in touch with my time." (p.201) "What do you think about Miro saying ‘one must be ready to work amidst total indifference and the most profound obscurity’?" (p.246) "Art is the thing that lasts. The popes, the dukes, the princes and kings wanted a small piece of immortality." (p.248)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Coleman

    'The Passion Dream Book' is both brilliant and flawed. Structurally it's a bit of an odd beast: it starts with a series of short chapters concerning Giulietta, a teenage girl in Renaissance Florence, who is hired to spy on 'M,' a famous artist who is obviously Michelangelo (he's working on a larger-than-lifesize statue of David). It then moves on to the extended story of Romy March, a descendent of Giulietta's in 1920s California, and her difficult love affair with a black photographer named Aug 'The Passion Dream Book' is both brilliant and flawed. Structurally it's a bit of an odd beast: it starts with a series of short chapters concerning Giulietta, a teenage girl in Renaissance Florence, who is hired to spy on 'M,' a famous artist who is obviously Michelangelo (he's working on a larger-than-lifesize statue of David). It then moves on to the extended story of Romy March, a descendent of Giulietta's in 1920s California, and her difficult love affair with a black photographer named Augustine Marks, who seems to be loosely based on James Van Der Zee. Otto's language is lovely, her characterizations are often sharp, and her use of period detail is great in sections about the Harlem Renaissance and Left Bank Paris. As a love story, though, I found this somewhat unsatisfying. Toward the end, it seemed as though Otto was artificially extending the separation between the lovers, torturing both them and the reader. I understand that Romy had to come into her own as an artist, and Augustine had to realize how much he needed her, but they seemed to take an awfully long time to get there. I'm also docking a star because of the slightly awkward nonfiction techniques used in the first section, because they took me out of the story. But this is still a very worthwhile read, especially for anyone interested in the arts in general and women artists in particular.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I was really torn between three or four stars. The novel begins as a young Giulietta spies on Michaelangleo as he is sculpting David. Giulietta is about 13 years old and yearns to be apprenticed to an artist but is denied because of her sex. Fast forward to 1918 where a frustrated wealthy college student (a descendent of Giulietta's) has just dropped out to pursue HER love of art. The story focuses on Romy, a gifted photographer who defies conventions to follow her dreams. There are many excitin I was really torn between three or four stars. The novel begins as a young Giulietta spies on Michaelangleo as he is sculpting David. Giulietta is about 13 years old and yearns to be apprenticed to an artist but is denied because of her sex. Fast forward to 1918 where a frustrated wealthy college student (a descendent of Giulietta's) has just dropped out to pursue HER love of art. The story focuses on Romy, a gifted photographer who defies conventions to follow her dreams. There are many exciting time periods explored... early Hollywood, The Harlem Renaissance, the artist colonies of Paris in the 1920's and even the beginnings of Hollywood glamour post WWII. Romy and her sometimes-lover Augustine Marks weave and dance through these various periods. I loved the glimpse into the nomadic and sometimes chaotic artist colonies but was frustrated by the lack of depth in any of the characters. I felt distanced even from Romy. She loves art and she loves Augustine and I knew very little else about her. I also wanted a book about ART and not a romance. This came perilously close to a too-sweet-romance.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richie

    Passions. Dreams. Books. I love all these things. This book is nice. Dreamy, starting during the Renaissance in Italy, then moving through the '20s and beyond. It explores art: what it means, how we make it; it has its philosophical moments. It began as a five star book for me, but then end dragged on. It probably could have been 220 pages and been just perfect. The major flaw I see in this author's writing is: Why say it once when you could say it twice? Or three times? Plenty of examples in this Passions. Dreams. Books. I love all these things. This book is nice. Dreamy, starting during the Renaissance in Italy, then moving through the '20s and beyond. It explores art: what it means, how we make it; it has its philosophical moments. It began as a five star book for me, but then end dragged on. It probably could have been 220 pages and been just perfect. The major flaw I see in this author's writing is: Why say it once when you could say it twice? Or three times? Plenty of examples in this book, but here is one I noticed near the end: "That kind of crazy, rushed packing because you care so much more about where you are going than what you are bring. You care very little about what you are bringing because the thing you want is the place you are headed." I know there is a difference here, but there are parts that just feel like they could have been parsed down, but I am sure there are people who like writing like this. I also feel like this is a book that says a lot, but says very little. Lots of descriptions, but I never really saw the characters in more than a vague outline. Overall, a good read. And kudos that Norma Shearer is on the cover.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aliki Barnstone

    I find it fascinating the way that Whitney Otto writes ekphrastic novels, and transparently, yet seamlessly, weaves in her research into her narratives (she has a list of books that informed her work at the end of "The Passion Dream Book," as well as at the end of "Eight Girls Taking Pictures). Her books (each one is my favorite - I can't decide) manage to do two things simultaneously: immerse me in the novel's world in a way that feels "real" (one of the great pleasures of novel-reading) and ma I find it fascinating the way that Whitney Otto writes ekphrastic novels, and transparently, yet seamlessly, weaves in her research into her narratives (she has a list of books that informed her work at the end of "The Passion Dream Book," as well as at the end of "Eight Girls Taking Pictures). Her books (each one is my favorite - I can't decide) manage to do two things simultaneously: immerse me in the novel's world in a way that feels "real" (one of the great pleasures of novel-reading) and make me aware of the artistry and skill of the writer (another great pleasure). Whitney Otto's work is splendid!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Willey

    I read this book several years ago, but LOVE it. The story line and writing style intwines the path of the main character through her path through life and love. I lent my original copy to a friend to read but never got it back before she moved. I actually purchased another copy because it is one that I found I need in my permanent collection - to read and re-read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    tirta

    It;s a book about the passion that went through generations of people whose lives revolve around fine arts and still arts. Probably those people who have a background in arts might understand the book better. For me, it's still okay. The storyline is quite simple though sometimes there are too many interruption in the flow of the story that sometimes cut the flow ofour thought. It;s a book about the passion that went through generations of people whose lives revolve around fine arts and still arts. Probably those people who have a background in arts might understand the book better. For me, it's still okay. The storyline is quite simple though sometimes there are too many interruption in the flow of the story that sometimes cut the flow ofour thought.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    i almost gave up on this because her writing was sloppy and irritating, then it suddenly grabbed me. Starts out in Renaissance Italy with Michelangelo, then moves to early 20th century. Hollywood, Pasadena, the Harlem Renaissance, 1920s Paris. Romy is a photographer/artist. About art and artists and the nature of love.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Felt like it should be two separate stories, and by stories I mean shorter! I am a student of Art History and I can't imagine someone without that background getting into this at all, some of it is very technical. Enjoyed the second half more than the first. It does shed light on the struggle of female artists and the choices they must make, particularly in the first part of the 20th century. Felt like it should be two separate stories, and by stories I mean shorter! I am a student of Art History and I can't imagine someone without that background getting into this at all, some of it is very technical. Enjoyed the second half more than the first. It does shed light on the struggle of female artists and the choices they must make, particularly in the first part of the 20th century.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I got about 15 pages in and could not continue, there was no grab to the story. After reading reviews that commented I needed to get through the first part to be grabbed by the story. That first part was rambling and not that well written. Who knows down the road I may find a friend who will convince me, on to better stories.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    This was one of my favorite books as a teen. I read it the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of HS. Here are my notes from then: "One of the books that changed my life, and truly pointed my life toward the creative." This was one of my favorite books as a teen. I read it the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of HS. Here are my notes from then: "One of the books that changed my life, and truly pointed my life toward the creative."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jayne

    Set in Italy - ahhh. The main character is a girl who dreams of being an artist, however in the 1500's this is an impossibility for women. She manages to find Michelangelo and spy on him while he works on his masterpiece, David! What a wonderful premise for a novel. Set in Italy - ahhh. The main character is a girl who dreams of being an artist, however in the 1500's this is an impossibility for women. She manages to find Michelangelo and spy on him while he works on his masterpiece, David! What a wonderful premise for a novel.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I only purchased this book because it was on super clearance for under $5 and the cover looked pretty. It was a little slow getting started, but then I completely fell in love with it. I couldn't tell you exactly why, it just touched me. I've probably read it at least five times. I only purchased this book because it was on super clearance for under $5 and the cover looked pretty. It was a little slow getting started, but then I completely fell in love with it. I couldn't tell you exactly why, it just touched me. I've probably read it at least five times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Volare

    I first read this book in 1997 but the story stuck with me, especially the little box with the curl of marble. I felt compelled to read it again in 2020, 23 years later and enjoyed it even more. It is such a compelling story full of hope, passion and love.

  29. 5 out of 5

    genn

    so far so good. it explores race, art, relationsips and differences in time....

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This is my favorite novel about an artist, and indeed one of the only ones that I like at all. The writing is beautiful, the characters are believable, and I love the sweep of history.

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