A Brush with Mondrian by Yvonne Louis: 366 Days of Writing

Considering the vast number of memoirs that fill the shelves of bookstores across the country, the desire to tell one’s life story is a popular pastime for many writers. If the writing is good and the story interesting they sell well, if not they can be very, very boring. Luckily for Yvonne Louis, her ancestry is captivating and what she delivers is a beautifully constructed and meticulously researched tale.

Born in Amsterdam, Louis’ parents, Alice and Wim immigrated to Australia in the 1950’s, settling in the upper north shore suburb of Wahroonga. Louis’ childhood was typical of the era and she had a close relationship with both her parents up until their deaths. But it’s the family heirlooms by Dutch masters Mondrian and Maris that form the basis of her story. Little is known about the paintings that have been passed on through her mother’s family, other than a painting the family nicknamed Miss Maris. After a close call with a Sydney bushfire, Louis decides its time to investigate the mystery of the paintings. As she criss-crosses between The Netherlands and Australia, she meets Holland’s finest art historians, artists and collectors who give her a fascinating insight into the paintings, the artists themselves and how her family came to be in possession of them. Woven throughout the story is Louis’ reconnection with her father’s children from his first marriage, who remained in the Netherlands and never heard from or saw their father again. This adds a personal and heart warming addition to the story.

A Brush with Mondrian is one of those rare gems that come along too infrequently. Louis was a librarian, teacher and one of the founding members of the Kids Own Literature Awards and it shows. She is a warm and engaging writer. Her journey is personal but filled with wonderful historical and cultural facts about the Netherlands and the great Dutch masters. A truly delightful book!

Review by Kylie Field

Kylie Field is a freelance writer and a literary agent who loves great Australian stories.

Send us in your reviews of a new (or old!) Australian book you’d love to tell us all about! They will become part of our Year of Reading: 366 Days of Writing blog series.

Email to sbarnes(write at)nswwc.org.au


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