“In recounting the secret history of L’Origine, Lilianne Milgrom offers us an entertaining, provocative read which will continue to intrigue us and invite speculation, long after we have turned the last page.”
California Review of Books
“What a gorgeous, captivating novel: a tour de force! Who knew that a painting’s provenance could make for such a profoundly moving and thought-provoking page-turner; I couldn’t read fast enough and at the same time didn’t want to reach the end. Lilianne Milgrom has written a masterpiece worthy of the iconic Gustave Courbet painting that lies at the heart of L’Origine.”
Joan Dempsey, Author of the award-winning novel, "This Is How It Begins."
“L’Origine got me hooked - what a story! Milgrom brings the reader right along with her on her adventures as the copyist of one of the most well-known paintings in all of France and maybe even the world. It's not one more of these books about people coming to France and fixing up an old farmhouse.... ”
Harriet Welty Rochefort, Author of "French Fried, "French Toast", and "Joie de Vivre"
“L’Origine is, indeed, an apt title for Lilianne Milgrom’s debut novel, since it is the painting itself—L’Origine du Monde—that is the heroine of this vividly-written, well-researched, and highly compelling book. Part historical fiction, part personal journey, L’Origine tells the story of “the world’s most erotic masterpiece” and its effect on those who tried to capture it, in one way or another—including Milgrom herself. The notorious little painting is, above all, a survivor. Its page-turning odyssey, told in richly textured prose, is an original story well-worth reading.”
Barbara Linn Probst, award-winning author of “Queen of the Owls: A Novel”
“A captivating historical fiction based on Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Origine du monde (1866), following the personal and intimate journeys of its successive illustrious owners and dealers, against the background of the Franco-Prussian war, WW1, and WW2 respectively. The author’s encounter with this same painting at the Musée d’ Orsay in Paris 150 years later, while becoming the first copyist of the painting in 2011, sparked the reconstructed narratives presented in this book. From the proximity to the scandalous piece, Milgrom composes a realist allegory of the life of a very special painting”
Stephanie Jeanjean (PhD), New York-based French art historian, curator, translator
“Brilliantly writ. Not over-wrought. Nice dialogue. Insightful personality descriptions. Merci for a fine novel."
Kerry Feldman. Author of Alice's Trading Post
"I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this book. Everything about it is wonderful - the calibre of writing, the historical story, the modern autobiographical elements - all entirely gripping. I couldn't put it down."
I literally just read the last page of “L’Origine” and just wanted to send a quick thank you. My 80-year-old high school French teacher whispered to me at a book club meeting that she had a book she wanted me to read. She was very quiet and brought out your book as if it was a big secret. She winked at me and said, “You will see.” I have honestly giggled several times just thinking of our secret handoff. I am an art teacher with 30 years experience and wanted to express my gratitude for my enjoyable summer read. I have seen Courbet’s painting at the Musee D’Orsay almost 20 years ago. Though I do remember seeing it, now I want to pull out my guide book to read more.
Kim M., Suffolk
“There’s nothing like a good story to grip a reader, and Milgrom’s own tale of witnessing and emulating Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde is the perfect way to get into—and attempt to understand—this infamous masterpiece. Highly recommended for art history aficionados, Francophiles, history and biography fans, and readers eager to glimpse the fascinating world beyond the frame.”
Jennifer Dasal, Podcast host of ArtCurious and bestselling author of "ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History"
“Brilliant, engaging, and beautifully written. This book was an absolute delight to read. From the very first page the author managed to grab me, haul me to Paris, take me on her copying journey, then thrust me back 155 years and let me experience the birth and life of L'Origine du monde. This was one of those rare books that gave me that indescribable feeling of pure satisfaction after finishing a fulfilling story. It has made itself a very special place in my heart and it's quite obvious why. L'Origine was written with love. And I cannot emphasize enough the power such love has on a book.”
Rosaline R., Reviewer, Reedsy Discovery
"Artist Milgrom debuts with a richly imagined blend of autofiction and art history that revolves around a shocking Courbet painting featuring the female subject’s genitals. Lilianne proceeds to unravel the picture’s story from its commission by Khalil Bey, a wealthy Turk in Paris to the painting’s belated public display at the end of the 20th century. Milgrom evokes the powerful reactions that attracted its owners and the lengths they undertook to conceal the work. The outrages, desire, and desperation the painting provokes make for delicious, emotionally powerful reading, while the historical details appear unobtrusively. Readers will be delighted by this delectable tale."
Booklife by Publishers Weekly
"Immaculately researched and full of verve, the book is a real achievement, one which I read it with fascination and admiration. Milgrom's story of one of the more notorious paintings in the history of art is prefaced with a tale of her own: how she spent several weeks in the Musée D'Orsay making a painted copy of Courbet's original L'Origine du monde painting, under the curious and sometimes lascivious eye of other museum goers." Five stars.
Christopher P Jones, Art historian and author, UK
"After a mutual friend recommended your novel, I immediately started reading it as I recalled my own awe at viewing the painting for the first time some time shortly after it emerged to the light of day. As an author and the husband of an artist, I must express my gratitude for your having taken up this subject and having enhanced my appreciation of the painting through your superb writing."
Norman Dovberg, author
I thoroughly enjoyed L'Origine about Gustave Coubert. It is masterfully written and unique, and so exciting it keeps you breathless to the very last page. I admire your brilliant character description and your choice of words makes the sentences flow. I could not put it down. Your book inspires me.
Sylva Kanderal, author
Milgrom masterfully layers art history, social history, biography, memoir, and fiction into this novel with the care and attention to detail of a master portrait artist. Her introduction and epilogue are each just a few pages long, written with economy and control. Nevertheless, she manages to reveal a self-portrait within the portrait that rivals, in words, the brushstrokes of Courbet himself and echoes the meta commentary of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Not since the works of Eugen Weber have I read such an engaging book of history.