Creole Son

In 1872, French artist Edgar Degas traveled to New Orleans to reacquaint himself with his Creole mother’s family. What he found set him on a most unexpected course laying the foundations to become one of the late 19th century’s master painters.

Creole Son

Disillusioned by a lackluster career and haunted by the Prussian siege of Paris and the bloodbath of the Commune, Edgar Degas seeks personal and professional rebirth by visiting his New Orleans family. He is horrified to learn he has exchanged one city in crisis for another as post-Civil War New Orleans is a corrupt town occupied by hostile Union troops and suffering under the heavy hand of Reconstruction. He is further shocked to find his family deeply involved in the violent struggle to reclaim political power at a dangerous cost. Despite the personal and political chaos swirling around him, Degas sketches and paints with fervor and miraculously reinvents himself, transitioning his style from neoclassical to the emerging world of impressionism. He ultimately became one of the masters of this new genre, but how did New Orleans empower Degas to fulfill this destiny?  The answer may be found in Creole Son.

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“Llewellyn has a gift for dialogue. ‘There’s something very strange about this place, this wild mixture of land and water that warns and inspires with its very impermanence,’ a fellow artist tells Degas as they watch the Mississippi River from a third-story studio. Llewellyn’s deft handling of historical detail entwined with an engrossing fictional narrative will appeal to lovers of history, lovers of art, and lovers of a good read. Creole Son succeeds in delivering what historical fiction should deliver. It engages, it educates, and above all, it entertains.” —The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

“The challenge of writing historical fiction is finding the balance between factual events and the fictional story the author tries to weave into that reality. In Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans, Michael Llewellyn finds that balance by crafting a tale that is rich in both history and imagination. The author of seventeen books, Michael Llewellyn brings New Orleans alive in an enjoyable novel that readers will delight in discovering.” — Southern Literary Review

“Artist Edgar Degas is justly famous for his many lyrical and revealing paintings of ballerinas, but in Michael Llewellyn’s Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans, we are presented with a fascinating portrait of the sometimes irascible but emotionally restrained artist himself. Llewellyn, who lived in New Orleans for a number of years, writes convincingly of a chaotic, sensual, dangerous and exotic city that is seething with racial tension, criminal politics, sexual license and moral ambiguity. When I started the book, I had no idea it was going to go to these dark places, but with Degas as a companion, it was enthralling to experience the strange and haunted streets and cemeteries, Mardi Gras balls and brothels, as well as the intimacy of his daily life in his mother’s family. Llewellyn crafts a strong and persuasive argument for New Orleans having brought Degas to a new and daring way of painting, experiences that freed his artistic abilities as much as they opened his heart and soul. The descriptions of how he thought, observed and painted his subjects are finely wrought and very well written, showing detailed knowledge of the artist’s style and methods. A book to be savored.” –Literary Grace Notes

“With skill and sensitivity, Llewellyn captures the interaction of art and violence, ugliness and beauty, the transition of an artist, a man and a world.” — Barbara Hambly, author of A Free Man of Color

I thoroughly enjoyed Creole Son, especially the sections in which Degas is sketching and painting. Llewellyn captures with compelling detail Degas’s artistic excitement and inspiration. I also learned a lot about 19th century New Orleans politics from the impressive research, and admired the way Llewellyn met the challenge of writing a convincing novel set in the Francophone 19th century, no easy task. It’s so difficult, as I’ve found, to write in one language while reminding readers that the characters are speaking in another. I was not surprised to learn Llewellyn had been a painter. The frenzy of the inspired eye and hand coordination rang so true that it couldn’t be invented.” –James Nolan, author of Flight Risk: Memoirs of a New Orleans Bad Boy 

“Llewellyn deftly imagines the beauty, peril, internecine struggles and seductiveness of late 19th century New Orleans as seen through the troubled artist’s eyes.” — Ciji Ware, author of A Race to Splendor