The Women Friends


Can you name a single book that everyone likes? I very much doubt it. Readers have widely differing tastes. You only have to read the reviews of any book to see that.

thewomenfriendsselinawithbirdsSo why am I telling you that The Women Friends: Selina isn’t for everyone? Because it’s probably more controversial than some. It’s also very different from my first novel: Neither Here Nor There. It follows the fictional story of a woman struggling to survive in a strange environment in traumatic times. She gets involved in things some readers might not want to read about.

However, while little is known of the two models in Klimt’s painting: The Women Friends, the story remains true to what is known of the women who inspired the great artist, as well as to the turbulent times in which it is set.

One reader, in the first review of the book, describes the book brilliantly, although there are parts that I didn’t see in the same way. We all read different things into the same books.

Up to now, I haven’t made much of the fact that The Women Friends: Selina is a finalist in the Goethe Awards, because my name didn’t appear on the list. I’m happy to say that has now been rectified, and Emma and I are delighted that the book has reached this stage.

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In this post, I will endeavour to put all the information about The Women Friends: Selina in one place. If I forget anything, or more details become available, I will add them.

The Women Friends: Selina will be released this Thursday, 1st December. That’s tomorrow.

It’s the first in a series of novellas about the women in Gustav Klimt’s paintings.

It’s a finalist in the Goethe Awards (although they still haven’t added my name EDIT: now they have).

You can buy it on Amazon.

You’re invited to our launch party at 3pm (UTC). (Just go there and click on Going.)

Lots of information about the background to The Women Friends: Selina can be found in these articles.

A reading from the start of the novella.

The English Informer posted my article here and here.

The one and only Seumas Gallacher, author of several crime thrillers, posted my article.

According to Vanessa Couchman, I’m an unintentional history person.

EDIT: It’s in the online magazine of my former college.

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Plus… a bit of fun with The Women Friends.

And this lovely picture from Crooked Cat:

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My recent trip to the Vs was exciting and fascinating.

Vienna

I’d never been to Austria before and probably wouldn’t ever have gone if I hadn’t written about this city in The Women Friends. But I left my qualms at home for four days and prepared to enjoy myself while conducting my research.

Four days weren’t nearly enough, but we managed to do quite a lot.

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Sachertorte

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We ate traditional foods. Well, we had to eat something, so why not? And we ate in the famous Café Central.

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We went walking in the mountains near Vienna, along with my nephew who lives there.

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We saw lots of paintings by Klimt, because that was one of the reasons for going there. The one that excited me the most was Death and Life, because it’s featured in The Women Friends.

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Vienna Jewish Museum: Herzl’s Bike

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We saw the Jewish Museum and the Hundertwasser Museum, the Town Hall, Schönbrunn Palace with its fabulous gardens and palm house.

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We even saw Karl Marx Hof, which, as the sign says, is Vienna’s largest residential building of the inter-war period. Wikipedia says it’s the “longest single residential building in the world.” It’s in The Women Friends.

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Prater Park: Wiener Riesenrad

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And the Prater with its big wheel, which is also in The Women Friends.

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Venice

img_2275This was my third visit to this unique city, defined, above all, by the fact that all travel is water-based. We saw ambulance boats, funeral boats, delivery boats and of course passenger boats, which we used when we weren’t walking our feet off, because the mainland of Venice is all about shopping – window shopping, in our case – and anyway, we love walking.

We visited the cemetery island – Cimitero di San Michele – Burano and Murano, famous for glass production and also very beautiful.

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Even the trip to the airport was accomplished by boat. At the airport, a surprise awaited me: an upgrade to business class. What a wonderful ending to a wonderful holiday!

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About The Women Friends

The Women Friends is a series of novellas based on Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece of the same name and written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori.

The Women Friends: Selina will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December and is available now for pre-order.

The Women Friends: Janika will be published by Crooked Cat in 2017.

(Continued from Klimt and Judith I)

The brochure continues:

klimtjudith2brochure1997reduced“Perhaps influenced by the 1907 performance of Richard Strauss’s opera, Salome, Klimt returned to the subject of the femme fatale in 1909, when he painted Judith II. Here again, critics mistakenly identified the subject as Salome. Indeed, this Judith appears threatening and monstrous: her face and claw-like fingers instil fear, and her dress engulfs Holofernes’ head, symbolising his loss of identity. As in Judith I, the artist’s counter-decapitation of Judith is suggested by the two white stripes cutting across her neck.

“Klimt’s depictions of Judith and Holofernes deviate from the traditional narrative and express the ambivalent attitude towards women in fin-de-siècle Vienna. In art as in society, women were compartmentalised into one of two categories – vulgar prostitute or untouchable ideal creature. Sexual hypocrisy was rampant: many upper-class men carried on affairs with working-class young women, prostitution flourished and pornography developed into a thriving industry. Women’s unprecedented demands for political and social emancipation, the Secessionists’ call for sexual liberation and Freud’s writings on the unconscious all heralded a revolution in traditional perceptions of sexuality and guilt. However, the new, sexually-liberated life-style was seen by many men as a threat to their identity and also brought with it a gnawing fear of venereal disease. It was this terror which gave birth to the image of female lover turned insatiable predator – the femme fatale, epitomised in Klimt’s Judith I.”

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.

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Author of the Day

Sarah Louise Smith writes chick-lit. Her four novels to-date have all been published by Crooked Cat and one of them, Izzy’s Cold Feet, is free to download from Amazon for one day only. Sarah can be found all over the Internet, sometimes with Arwen the puppy.

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the Apocryphal Book of Judith (a text not  included in the Jewish canon but preserved in the Christian tradition). The story’s plot develops in the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaigns against his neighbours, including the nation of Israel. Under the command of Holofernes, the Assyrian army besieges  the Jewish city of Bethulia and cuts off its water supply. When the thirst becomes unbearable, the town elders decide to surrender to the enemy. At this critical point in the story, Judith, a wealthy widow famous for her beauty and wisdom, appears on the scene. Rebuking the town elders for their  lack of faith, she bravely sets out with her handmaiden for the enemy camp, plotting Holofernes’ downfall. The Assyrian commander is captivated by her beauty, and invites her to his tent. During a feast in her honour, Judith gets Holofernes drunk and, while he sleeps, takes his sword and decapitates him. Carrying the severed head, she returns victorious to Bethulia. Holofernes’ death horrifies the enemy camp and the Assyrians flee in terror with the Israelites at their heels.

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So says just one paragraph of a brochure I received from Esther, one of the members of my writing group. The brochure dates from 1997 and accompanied an exhibition in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece known as Judith I.

The brochure goes on to explain that Judith has been depicted in different ways over the centuries: as the the triumph of good over evil, of virtues over vices, of freedom over tyranny; and also as a sinful woman who dared to use her sexuality as a weapon.

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In 1901, Klimt shocked the Viennese critics and public with the daring eroticism of his painting Judith I. Despite the title, viewers were unable to reconcile Klimt’s interpretation with that of the modest Jewish widow and courageous heroine from the Book of Judith. It was assumed that Klimt had really meant to depict Salome, a favourite femme fatale of turn-of-the-century artists such as Franz von Stuck, Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley (who illustrated Oscar Wilde’s play Salome). Aware of his departure from artistic tradition, Klimt modelled the rounded mountains and stylised date palms in the background after an Assyrian relief, in order to connect the figure to its Assyrian context. In addition, he inscribed the names Judith and Holofernes on the ornate picture frame made by his brother, Georg.

Klimt created the sensation of a direct encounter with a living and breathing femme fatale by realistically rendering Judith’s face, body and arm. This style contrasts with the geometric, two-dimensional decorations on Judith’s clothes and in the background. Judith’s destructive potential, reflected by Holofernes’ severed head, is encountered by Klimt’s powerful mutilation of Judith’s figure conveyed by the jewelled collar separating her head from her body, and the composition that cuts her off below the navel. Sexual ecstasy is expressed through Judith’s half-closed eyes, parted lips, semi-nudity and her hand that caresses Holofernes’ head. This ecstasy is particularly unsettling as it results from the assassination of her partner. The pairing of sexuality and death (Eros and Thanatos) fascinated not only Klimt, but Freud and many other members of European society at the end of the nineteenth century.

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Klimt’s model for Judith was probably Adele Bloch-Bauer, the Jewish wife of a wealthy Viennese banker, whose 1907 portrait by Klimt became the subject of the 2015 film, Woman in Gold.

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(continued in Klimt and Judith II)

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.

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Author of the Day

Esther Rafaeli is an amazing woman with an amazing history. Spanning ninety years, it hovers between the Land of Israel and Australia before settling here in Israel and bringing her into contact with many special people. Esther is full of surprises, the last one (up to now) being that despite a horrible fall, a very short time after her ninetieth birthday, leaving her lying on the floor for 36 hours, she couldn’t wait to get back home and start writing again. Her latest piece doesn’t describe the fall in detail, but lists the fortunate coincidences connected with the fall. I am in awe.

Update: It wasn’t 36 hours. It was 56! Also, I failed to mention Esther’s books, available on Amazon US, Amazon UK and elsewhere.

(This is where I get to reveal the gorgeous new book cover.)

What links my first book, Neither Here Nor There, with my second, The Women Friends: Selina, written together with Emma Rose Millar?

Not a lot. It would be easier to list the differences:

  • Contemporary – Historical
  • Romance – Story of love, but not romance
  • Light – Dark

One link is orthodox Judaism. Esty in Neither Here Nor There leaves the ultra-orthodox community in which she grew up. Janika, the second of the models in The Women Friends, does something similar, but that’s described in the second novella. In the novella to be published by Crooked Cat on December 1st, Janika takes a big part but is not the main character.

The other link is orange, which is what makes the two covers so distinctive.

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