The Art of Traveling Strangers

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Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 29 Mar 2022
Amplify Publishing Group, Subplot Publishing

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It’s the 1980s, and art historian Claire Markham reels from a series of heartbreaking losses. Desperate to escape her shattered reality, she becomes an art guide in Europe for quirky stranger Viv Chancey and embarks on a life-changing journey through the art-filled cities of Milan, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Siena, Rome, and Paris.

Once abroad, Claire tries to hide her woes by focusing on Viv’s art education, but Viv—who is not who she seems—has a different learning experience in mind. Frustrated and wanting to reimagine her life, Claire embraces the idea of reality as illusion and finds herself slipping into the tales of art and history.

When threatened with one more crushing loss, Claire must learn from the spirit of her eccentric companion and the lessons from the art they encounter to take charge of her life or lose the most precious thing in it. 

The Art of Traveling Strangers is a journey of self-discovery and personal empowerment inspired by the great art masterpieces of Italy and France. It’s a tale of female bonding and the amazing powers of perception. After all, reality, like art, is just an illusion.

It’s the 1980s, and art historian Claire Markham reels from a series of heartbreaking losses. Desperate to escape her shattered reality, she becomes an art guide in Europe for quirky stranger Viv...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781645439011
PRICE $24.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 87 members

Featured Reviews

So this was one of those reads that blew my mind and surprised the f out of me. Because I absolutely loved it. The story was so phenomenal and engaging that I couldn’t put it down until and unless I was done with it.!

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I read this in the dove of roughly 24hours! Granted we are all home with CoVid, but still I thought it was a page turner.

I went in not being sure it it was my kind of book. I thought it was just going to be the tale of a mopey woman running around Europe but it was so much more than that.

The characters are very real and are confronted with their obstacles and life difficulties and through art they begin go heal and find some comfort.

There’s a good bit of information about art history without it becoming boring. It also touches on the AIDS crisis in the 80s, changing roles of women and family dynamics as well as how legitimate different ways of learning as well as coping are.

It was a very easy and entertaining read with depth too it.

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What a most appealing surprise this book turned out to be! being locked up with Covid-19 quarantine and feeling quite ill (despite all vaccines and booster), I desperately needed something to keep my mind occupied as I rested in bed. Thank you Zoe Disigny for not only writing a most entertaining and informative book, but also for letting me revisit all the beautiful cities and museums in Italy and the city of Paris again in my imagination.

Claire, an art historian, is in an unhappy marriage, followed by a daunting love affair with her former therapist, when her summer seminar in Rome for college students falls through and leaves her hanging. Enter Viv, a student from the cancelled trip (married to a bookie) offers to pay for both their trips for a private tour. Viv is quite a character, ditzy yet sharp, whose interests lie not in Michaelangelo and Brunelleschi, but in Coco Chanel and Dolce and Gabanna. She is a fashionista of the first water. Early frustrations with Viv give way to some life-changing insights and education for both Viv and Claire.

The characters are well-defined, and Viv turns out to be comic relief in buying designer outfits that don't fit her. Claire learns more about haute couture than Viv does about art, but you will undoubtedly learn more about both.

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This one caught my eye thanks to the art historian character travelling in Italy. I work as an art educator in Rome so I’m quite invested in this topic!

I enjoyed the travelling nature of the story and loved the visits to different cities.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me read an advance copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.

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"I know that sounds like I'm making excuses for my behavior, and I guess I am. But it is curious how transgressions within a marriage are viewed differently than those outside it. Somehow psychological and emotional abuses between husbands and wives don't carry the same weight. They're not seen as betrayals. They're considered minor offenses, little slip-ups, something a good spouse should learn to forgive for the sake of the marriage." -- Claire

This book is a rare gem that not only offers soft love, friendship, and a bit of thrill, but also lots of educational facts that don't feel like they're being crammed down your throat! I absolutely enjoyed reading about the life of the artists and their well-described artworks that the author managed to fit perfectly with the narrative of the story. I can't even begin to think of how much research that would take.

I also tried very hard to find a big fault in this book, but I couldn't. The pacing is good and not forced at all, especially when Claire finally opened up to Viv. Well, it's not only about her opening up, but it's Claire’s gradual change! It's not one of those stories where a character decides they want to change and immediately does. Claire's progress feels more real. Sure, she's made mistakes, but where would the dilemma be if she didn't? It’s what she learns from them that adds more to her character.

Though if there's anything I would have wanted to see in this book, it's (1) having pictures, or even doodle-y illustrations, of the artworks discussed and the places they've been to. While having them won't affect the story at all, it would've been nice to comment along with Viv and Claire. And (2) Kurt and Claire bearing with each other as they try to raise their daughter with as much likeliness as a normal household's, two parents. After all, they are her parents, and I'm sure that she'll miss having them around together. They both made mistakes, though only Kurt didn't acknowledge them.

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Had a wonderful time reading this as I was commuting to work! A good travel read 💜
Thank you to #netgalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I mainly picked this up for the book cover but god DANG this was such a fun ride! It was great curling up in my bed while doing online school and just getting sucked into the characters’ world and their relationships

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Highly recommend!! This book is a definite page-turner! You'll be left thinking about the story long after you put the book down. First book to read by this author but definitely not my last!

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After a long, long time, I read a woman's fiction novel of my heart. From the beginning to the end, I never once felt bored or irritated or confused. I've never read anything by the author, Zoe Disigny, but from now on, I will. This is a book that celebrates female friendship, liberation, and dreams. Not once it preaches feminist mottos, but not once does it stop supporting all that I mentioned above.

THE ART OF TRAVELING STRANGERS is a woman's fiction novel set in the 1980s about an art history professor, Claire Markham, whose marriage is in some deep trouble. Her husband, Kurt, is low-key mentally, psychologically, and emotionally abusive, to the point he leaves her and his nine-year-old daughter to the cold. He constantly tries to manipulate, belittle, and control Claire to the point she's a mousy doormat whenever she's around him. This forces Claire, a love-starved lonely woman, to start an affair with her married psychiatrist, Alec, who proves to be a coward in the end. On top of that, Claire is also underappreciated and underpaid at her work, where her male colleagues of lesser skills get more than they deserve. Heartbroken and disappointed, Claire accepts an offer from one of her students, another married woman and a mother of one, Scarlet Vivien Chancey, to become her art guide on a tour to several cities in France and Italy. While touring the museums and shopping malls equally, Claire comes to learn that Viv is not the ditzy, floozy, dumb blonde she assumed at first, and that all that you see on the surface are not what you get when you dive deeper.

What I loved about this book comes multifold. As someone who loves to travel but hates the physical labor of traveling, this book is for me. I lived vicariously through this book and its simple yet vivid descriptions of beautiful cities in France and Italy. Claire and Viv embrace all the opportunities that present themselves to them while on this trip. Their visits to some of the world's most famous paintings, murals, and sculptures told me a lot about the art history of Europe. As an art historian herself, the author describes everything about the various periods in simple language that you won't need a dictionary to understand. Even the historical context of the things Claire and Viv visit are fascinating to learn. On top of that, the art descriptions aren't fillers or showoff. They provide valuable context and encouragement to the main story itself. The tales of several powerful women of Europe's history help with Claire and Viv's character arcs.

Another thing I loved about this book is how it champions female friendship, liberation, and dreams. Claire and Viv aren't like each other in most ways. Claire is an academic while Viv is a shopaholic who only finds pleasure from clothes, makeup, shopping, and likewise. Claire is a pessimist while Viv is an optimist. Claire prefers artistic things while Viv would like nothing but the luxuries of life. In many more ways, they aren't the same. However, deep down, they are. Both are protective mothers and affection-starved daughters. They both love their families and would go to any lengths to protect and take care of them. I also loved how, despite their surface differences, Claire and Viv come to learn more about each other and support, uplift, and help each other during their individually difficult times. Viv helps Claire face her abusive husband, her emotionally distant mother, the turbulent history of her parents, and the heartbreaking tale of her affair with Alec. Meanwhile, Claire helps Viv reconcile with her estranged brother, learn to appreciate art, and realize the gray shades of life. They both grow and help each other grow, no cat-fights or snide remarks about each other. I love how refreshing it is, especially for a book set in the 1980s.

I also love how it discusses female dreams and liberation. Although not physically abusive, Claire's husband abuses her a lot. Claire finds liberation from a toxic marriage and saves herself and her daughter from a life of oppression and manipulation. She also comes to learn more sides of her skills and expands her dreams. Claire begins to break out of the shell Kurt had imprisoned her once and learn to appreciate her dreams more, to the point she's ready to move from one continent to another. I love it when women do not give up on their dreams and instead pursues them single-mindedly and passionately. Why should men only get to pursue their dreams?

Thank you, NetGalley and Amplify Publishing Group, Subplot Publishing, for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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