Tomas Stumbras grew up in war-torn Eastern Europe: a dark, rainy land of misty hills and valleys, where the whispers of the ancient gods and devils are still heard by ordinary people. He is a god-maker, a sculptor with a gift for turning dead wood into protective saints for use in prayer. But it's 1917 and even remote Lithuania feels the transforming effects of World War I. Caught between the destruction around him and his own drive to create, Tomas must abandon the stability of home and family and strike out on his own.
Tomas moves from his thatched wooden farmhouse to the vibrant streets and artistic community of Paris in the Roaring Twenties, where temptation and jealous are right around the corner from brilliance, beauty and fame. Working as a carpenter in the Folies Bergere, he encounters the dance sensation Josephine Baker and falls for a lovely chorus girl. But even when he finally achieves his dream and becomes an artist, he discovers that success demands sacrifice. Even when you find art and love, infamy and betrayal aren't far behind.
Epic in scope and beautifully evocative of time and place, Woman in Bronze reveals a life lived in extremes. It tells a story of love found and lost, creative endeavour and the price of celebrity and stardom.
Excerpt from Woman in Bronze
Easterners flooded into Paris, and it hummed with Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Romanian, and many other languages among the porters and labourers. Tomas also saw many English and Americans, always rich, usually laughing, and often drunk. Waves were washing over the city from all ends of the world, churning into a froth in which even a talented person could drown.
Antanas Sileika is the author of Dinner at the End of the World and Buying on Time, which was nominated for both the Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Buying on Time was serialized on CBC Radio's Between the Covers. A freelance broadcaster and journalist, Sileika is also the winner of a National Magazine Award and the artistic director of the Humber School for Writers.
“Bravo, Sileika, for capturing this struggle for artistic integrity in a compelling and highly readable novel.”
“At turns magical, funny, sad and powerful, it explores the unexpected results of artistic ambition and envy.”
—Quill & Quire (starred review)
“The novel, written in a deceptively easy prose, is superbly told, and Sileika is a keen dramatist.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Fuses rich storytelling with a palate of mixed historical and fictional characters that results in a book dripping in both its sights and sounds as well as the intricacies between the character’s relationships. Antanas Sileika carves a superb tale of one man’s drive through continuous obstacles of heartbreaking struggles and emotional triumphs, taking the reader along for the memorable ride.”
“A jazz-age La Bohème with a plot featuring the usual operatic subjects: illicit passions, jealous rages, tumultuous crowd scenes, tormented artists, dramatic reversals of fortune and lots of dead bodies. The lights, the promise, the debauchery and the virile young talent so essential to Paris in the ’20s are all on display…. Its evocation of a bygone era, the story’s tragic sweep, and the kind of high romanticism that sees the hero turn away from his moment of triumph — have a grandiosity and pathos any verismo composer would love.”
—The Vancouver Sun
"What makes one artist rise to the top and not another? Antanas Sileika has written a tender, clear-eyed fable about the unknown artist in each of us."
Praise for Buying on Time:
“A moving and entertaining collection. . . . Sileika handles the stories with a deft touch.”
—Quill & Quire
“The book welds humour, tragedy and personal embarrassments in a colourful and memorable way.”
—The Globe and Mail
“I can’t imagine what sort of disagreeable person would not enjoy this collection. The stories are funny, discerning, sharply observed and unobtrusively well-written.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)
Praise for Dinner at the End of the World:
“A thought-provoking first novel, unflinchingly funny, complex and delightfully unconventional.”
—Diane Schoemperlen, The Globe and Mail
“The stories in this novel are wonderfully written, superbly told, full of passion and pathos and moral purpose.”
—Wayne Grady, Toronto Star