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Book Club, Hotel

June Book Club: The Sitter

Our June Book Club follows the story of two women stuck in the same hotel room, a century apart. The Sitter by Queensland author Angela O’Keefe is inspired by the wife of Paul Cézanne, Marie-Hortense Fiquet, the familiar yet enigmatic subject of the French post-impressionist’s paintings.

This is a story of two women who find themselves in the study of each other, seamlessly weaving between reality and unreality and studying the dynamic between the artist and the muse.

Set within a hotel room in Paris during the 2020 pandemic, an author wrangles to uncover the story of Hortense. However, rather than simply an author telling a story about a static character from history, the character Hortense instead gains agency in the telling of her life story. The scrutiny is reversed, with Hortense becoming the interrogator and as the writer works on her novel, it is she that becomes the one who is being seen and analysed – the sitter.

Released from the past, Hortense takes control and narrates the story, observing the writer as she works and as their shared lives and regrets are examined. The stories of both, their personal catastrophes, and their connections, are beautifully layered in this touching novel. A deftly woven tale about seeing and being seen; about being and having been.

The Sitter is a beautiful and strange hallucination on the shifting boundary between art and life.

 Synopsis: The Sitter

Paris, 2020. A writer is confined to her hotel room during the early days of the pandemic, struggling to finish a novel about Hortense Cezanne, wife and sometime muse of the famous painter. Dead for more than a century, Hortense has been reawakened by this creative endeavour, and now shadows the writer through the locked-down city. But Hortense, always subject to the gaze of others, is increasingly intrigued by the woman before her. Who is she and what event hides in her past? Heartbreaking and perfectly formed, The Sitter explores the tension between artist and subject, and between the stories told about us and the stories we choose to tell.

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