A surprising, rich and beautiful first novel about women's friendship for readers of Paula McLain and Elena Ferrante, by a bestselling non-fiction author who has brilliantly turned her hand to fiction.
In Sofie & Cecilia, beloved non-fiction author and journalist Katherine Ashenburg draws upon her formidable skill and maturity as a writer to craft an extraordinary and splendid debut novel. This is the story of a lifelong female friendship, set in the fascinating art world of Sweden between 1900 and 1940, just as modern art and the beginnings of the Scandinavian mid-century modern design movement were inspiring a creative revolution across northern Europe. Loosely based on the lives of celebrated artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn ("Nils Olsson" and "Lars Vogt" in the novel), Ashenburg transports us behind both the public and domestic scenes--and canvasses--of these larger-than-life men to reveal the lesser-known but equally astounding and rich stories of the women who married them: restlessly creative artist-in-her-own-right Sofie Olsson, and fiercely private and intelligent curator Cecilia Vogt.
Here is a gorgeous gem of a book: surprising, unique, layered with insight into the nuances of female friendship as it stretches, changes, and deepens in unexpected ways over a lifetime. Woven effortlessly through this tapestry, like a beautiful motif, is absorbing detail about Scandinavian painting, design, and textile work; European history and sexual politics; the country life, city salons, vibrant art, and folklore of Sweden; and the secrets and challenges of bright, talented women juggling marriage, career, individual aspirations, and family life inside an artist's household in the early twentieth century.
KATHERINE ASHENBURG is the author of three books and many magazine and newspaper articles. She has written for The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life, among other publications. Her books include The Mourner's Dance: What We Do When People Die, and The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, which was published in 12 countries and six languages. In former incarnations, she was a producer at CBC Radio and was The Globe and Mail's Arts and Books editor. In 2012, she won a Gold Medal at the National Magazine Awards for her article on old age.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR SOFIE & CECILIA:
“Katherine Ashenburg slips her needle delicately beneath the skin to reveal the anatomy of an artist. This is the best kind of writing about art that is an art itself. So many pleasures here for the reader: delights of dress and décor and food and furnishings, all of the made things that make life better. Through the graceful procession of the years, strong strands of friendship tie these women together: their love of art, and books, and intelligent observation of the tangled knot of marriage.” —Marina Endicott, Giller shortlisted author of Good to a Fault
“Against the luscious backdrop of the early twentieth-century Swedish art world, Sofie & Cecilia offers a fascinating, intimate look at the many variations of female love: maternal love, marital love, love of industry and craft, love of beauty. Most of all it is a celebration of the love that can exist between women friends. An intelligent, tender, highly pleasurable novel.” —Barbara Gowdy, author of Little Sister and The Romantic