|Chagall - The Promenade|
There was nothing remotely earthbound about Chagall; his vivid subjects swirl into the air and soar above the ground in fantastic and exotic dances. He somehow managed to survive two world wars and Stalin's vicious anti-Semitic pogroms with his exuberant appetite for life and color undiminished. Incredibly prolific, in addition to paintings and murals, Chagall created soaring stained glass windows in churches, synagogues, and museums around the world, illustrated several books, including the Bible, and designed a number of stage sets over his long career.
We are then carried back to the story of Ben's great-grandfather, Boris Kulbak, who as a child received the painting from the hands of Chagall himself. Boris was a student at the Jewish Orphaned Boys' Colony in Malakhovka. Like many of the boys there, Boris had seen his parents butchered, and his unborn sibling cut from his mother's womb and thrown out of a window. Boris escaped, and huddled in an open grave for two days before he was found and taken to the orphanage. Chagall, an art teacher at the school, was so impressed with Boris's passionate painting of his family's slaughter that he offered one of his own in exchange.
|Chagall - The Red Cottage|
"Marc Chagall appeared exactly twenty-five years after his death, in the twenty-first century, in the brightly tiled wonderment of Phoebe's kitchen in Sonoma, California."
Phoebe's tiny cottage, studio, and half-acre of land are her personal enchanted place. An artist who earns a meager living designing wine bottle labels, she has decorated every inch of her space with brightly colored art. Her land grows anything abundantly; a cherry pit spit out in the yard will be a foot tall in a few months. But with the recession, Phoebe's hours and wages have been cut back, and she is in acute danger of losing her bit of paradise.
|Chagall - The Dance|
But Chagall has a second, secret agenda. During the First World War, over a hundred of his paintings had been stolen from his Paris studio, while he was home in Russia marrying his sweetheart. Very few were ever recovered, and Chagall wants them found and on display to the public. When a friend is injured and offers the non-refundable biking tour of the French countryside she had booked to Phoebe, Chagall urges her to accept, despite her financial woes.
When ghosts and country witches get involved, almost anything is possible, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised when the tour is booked into the exact little bed-and-breakfast among the fields of lavender where Phoebe's stolen painting has been hidden in a beehive for generations.
Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall skillfully weaves quirky characters and occasionally slapstick events with some interesting and well-written biographical detail, and the very large international problem of stolen art into a completely satisfying tapestry, and all in beautiful settings. The story was a good match to the fantastic and colorful art of Chagall, and I look forward to reading more from this author.