L'Origine: The Secret Life of the World's most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom

Saturday, May 8, 2021

 L'Origine: The Secret Life of the World's most Erotic Masterpiece
Author: Lilianne Milgrom
Published: 28 July 2020 (Little French Girl Press)
Pages: 255
Format: Kindle
Read: 05 May 2021
Content: Adult. Google the painting if you don't know what it looks like.
Synopsis: In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art: a sexually explicit portrait of a woman's exposed genitals. Audaciously titled L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), the scandalous painting was kept hidden for a century and a half. Today, it hangs in the world-renowned Orsay Museum in Paris, viewed by millions of visitors a year.
As the first artist authorized by the Orsay Museum to re-create Courbet's The Origin of the World, author Lilianne Milgrom was thrust into the painting's intimate orbit, spending six weeks replicating every fold, crevice, and pubic hair. The experience inspired her to share her story and the painting's riveting clandestine history with readers beyond the confines of the art world.
L'Origine is an entertaining and superbly researched work of historical fiction that traces the true story of the painting's unlikely tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas, and nefarious Nazi captains. But L'Origine is more than a riveting romp through history-it also sheds light on society's complex relationship with the female body.

First of all, I have a confession to make. Okay, more than one. 

First Confession: I saw this book one day on Emma over at France Book Tours and it tickled my curiosity. I've requested a copy from Emma and was very happy to receive it. I'm a fast reader and honestly thought I'd be done with it by end of April. But it took me weeks to finish. From my rating, you can see it was definitely not because I didn't like it, I loved it! But for every couple of pages, I first had to Google a bit and chat to my arty friends. 

Second Confession: I only looked at the blurb that Emma send me and never read the Goodreads Blurb, or any of the other reviews. I like to read a book first and make my own opinion before I read other reviews. I therefore didn't realize that the very talented author, Lilianne Milgrom, is really, really extremely talented and she paints with more than words. She is an accomplished painter and she was the very first artist to copy the highly controversial painting in the Orsay Museum. 
"As the first artist authorized by the Orsay Museum to re-create Courbet's The Origin of the World, author Lilianne Milgrom was thrust into the painting's intimate orbit, spending six weeks replicating every fold, crevice, and pubic hair. The experience inspired her to share her story and the painting's riveting clandestine history with readers beyond the confines of the art world."

I strongly suspect that the artist discreetly decided not to use the original painting for her cover art like you will see with so many books on famous paintings. The Girl with the Pearl Earing and The Goldfinch are the first to come to mind. I'm also not going to include a photo for you. Google and Facebook will probably ban me and a few of you might never visit me again. Gustave Courbet painted this painting over 150 years ago and it's obviously still not ready for prime time. It's only a few clicks away on your search engine, so click away if your curiosity is bound to kill your cat. 

I did enjoy this Reddit image and if you know the painting, you can't unsee it. 

L'origine du monde (Gustave Courbet) - Jeanette Hayes Food 2020

I for one at least knew who Courbet was, or no - I didn't. Confession Number 3. I knew some of his less controversial paintings, definitely nothing about the man himself and all the hidden paintings. The 1800's sure was an interesting era and I guess we have to admire the men for their savviness in hiding all the explicit female bodies. It definitely was a bit more difficult to hide these than to hide a Playboy or a  Scope under your mattress. 

Milgrom starts her novel with the origin (clever word-play, don't you think?) and recreates it's history through the hands of it's various owners. Some facts, some speculations, but all so marvelously painted together on the backdrop of true historical events. 

"The first owner of The Origin of the World, who probably commissioned it, was the Turkish-Egyptian diplomat Khalil-Bey (1831-1879). A flamboyant figure in Paris Society in the 1860s, he put together an ephemeral but dazzling collection devoted to the celebration of the female body, before he was ruined by his gambling debts. Exactly what happened to the painting after that is not clear. Until it joined the collections of the Musée d'Orsay in 1995 – by which time it belonged to the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan – The Origin of the World epitomised the paradox of a famous painting that is seldom actually seen."

- Musee d'Orsay

This book was one of the best Art History lessons I've ever attended. I Googled the art, the artists and the different time periods for hours. The writing was superb and Lilianne Milgrom's research was well presented with her discerning and artistic eye.  I so wish that this book will be available in South Africa soon so that I can talk about it some more with my artsy friends and those of us who just dream of holding a paintbrush properly. 

About the Author

Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an award-winning international artist, writer on the arts and author.
Her art can be found in both private and institutional collections around the world and her articles have been published in
Huffington Post, Daily Art Magazine, Ceramics Now and Bonjour Paris.
Her 5-star, bestselling novel ‘L’Origine‘ is the result of ten years of research and was accepted into the Historical Novel Society.
Lilianne lives in Washington DC with her husband.

Follow the author on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram
Join her mailing list

A big thanks to Emma at France Book Tours for so graciously sending me a copy of this one. I will remember it for a long time!


(I don't think Elza will care for this one as much)

Read More

Library Card - May 2021

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Greetings all you lovely people! I've been eying all your gorgeous monthly wrap-up posts and your plan-to-read posts for a while now. It really is a way to streamline your month just a little bit better. 

As you know, my Mommy means the world to me, but she can also irritate the living daylight out of me. Mostly because she is so ridiculously unorganized. How she ever manages at school and with running a library and her own business, really is beyond me. She never, ever knows what is going on in her reading life. She's got this amazing system at school for the students to control their library books and cards and she always knows exactly what book is with what student and where their library cards are. It's an easy enough system with each child being assigned a barcode to a little stick that they can decorate as they want. 

And then it hit me! That's what we need! We need our very own library card. And I'll take possession of it and make sure my Mommy sticks to it. If she doesn't, I will penalize her the same way she penalizes the kids at school when their library books are late, or their cards are missing. I might not ask for money, but rather hugs and cuddles and extra nibbles. Either way, the punishment will be harsh. 

A library card will definitely help her to get her monthly reading streamlined and help her not miss as many deadlines. Such a clever little cat, don't you think?

Book Club books will of course be the first on the list and I will wait to update her monthly Library Card until Book Club. It's normally on the first Monday of the new month. Maybe I should have chosen a better month though... My Mommy is the founder and the keeper of the D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) Book Club and she considers it as part of her duty to read all the books in Book Club. So glad I'm not a crazy human.  Once a year, she sorts through the piles of books and make sure they are all on the register and then hands them back to the various members. 

The problem with this "stock take" is that she normally discovers that she's missed a couple of books and then she frantically wants to read them all. 

So the Book Club books on her Library Card this month is: 

Die Boek van Gelukkige Eindes deur Debbie Loots

She's never going to manage that. And if she does, I'll eat dog food for a week. Mark my words. If she were on holiday, maybe. But she's not. So Ha. 

She also have the following books on her Kindle that she still needs to read for reviews this month:

9 Books on one little card this month. I can't see that happening. I guess I can start dreaming about nibbles and an extra helping of salmon by month end.  

Do you use a wrap-up or reading plan for your month? And what's on your library card for May? Do you think our system will work?

Check in with us again by the fist week in June to see me snack on my delicious treats while giving you an update on my Mommy's progress. 

Lots of Love,

Read More

Wednesday Wisdom from The Dreamers

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

 Have you ever noticed that sometimes you need to read a certain book at a certain time? If you read it at any other time, the impact is just not the same. 

My Mommy is busy sorting out the Book Club's books that need to be returned to the D.E.A.R. ladies end of May and as you can guess, she now realizes how many books she still needs to read. We'll tell you more about the Book Club in a later post. 

Anyhows, one of the books  my Mommy is/was frantically trying to finish before they need to be returned to their rightful owners, is The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. This book has been in the Book Club since early 2019 and it wa published in January 2019.

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

I'm quite certain if my Mommy picked up this book in 2019, or even in early 2020, she might not have felt the same way about this. I'm sure she still would have enjoyed it as the dreamlike writing style of The Dreamers would have appealed to her no matter the story. She's crazy like that, I know. 

However, like I've said, this book was published in 2019 when Covid 19, Isolation, Deadly Infectious Disease, Lock Down and I can't even think of more vocabulary - wasn't much used in general conversation. If at all. Reading this book, created the same type of sensation as we've experienced over the passed year. Same situations, same behavioral patterns. Yes, it was a different type of disease and the cause of the illness remains unknown, but it was still a disease that had a massive impact.

There were numerous quotes and passages from this book, that stopped us right in our tracks. This one is by far our favorite:

How true is that? And this one:
"Isolation: That's what the doctors call it. The separation of the sick from the well. But isn't every sleep a kind of isolation? When else are we so alone?"
I think many, if not most of the Covid 19 patients and especially the victims across the Globe, might have preferred to just go to sleep and not suffer as much as they had to endure.

"They sleep through the lesson made so instantly clear to the others: how disease sometimes exposes what is otherwise hidden. How carelessly it reveals a person's private self."

"The human brain is subject to all kinds of misperceptions, and the waking mind not always more attuned to reality than the dreaming one." 

The Covid vaccine is being rolled out all over the world at the moment and life is slowly returning to normal for a large number of countries. But for some, life will never be the same again. So many people have been affected by this dreadful disease in numerous ways. Loss of loved ones, loss of income, loss of security and routine and for all of us the loss of the sense of "normal". We sometimes forget how important emotional, psychological and social well-being is to humankind. Not to mention how we felines feel if your race goes a bit wacko. 

That is something very important to remember. It's not always about what happened, but also about what didn't happen or even, what could have happened. All of these have a huge impact on you mere mortals. Strive to be a cat. Life really is a bit less complicated being a cat. Or at the very least, do get yourself a cat. We tend to make life a bit more bearable.

Have you read The Dreamers? Did we miss any important quotes you could think of?

Lots of Love,

Read More

The Sunday Post #37

Sunday, May 2, 2021

 Greetings Humans! What a wonderful week we've had! Not only did my Mommy manage to publish 5, five, 🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈, posts this week, but all her school work is also up to date. But wait! There's more! We couldn't have ben more proudly South African than we were last Sunday night.

"My Octopus Teacher, the SA Netflix documentary that caught the world’s attention when it was released last year, has taken home the Oscar for Best Documentary. The documentary was a firm favourite going into the awards after scooping 20 international awards in the lead up to the ceremony. It tells the story of filmmaker Craig Foster befriending an octopus in a life-changing journey documented on film."
Congratulations to our fellow South African hotshots. Halala! 

Adding to the Litter

We shouldn't be adding anything to our toppling TBR list and especially not on the Review pile. We are falling a little bit behind. But as you know, my Mommy tend not to listen to the wisdom of her fluffy white cat. 

Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse through Space and Time by Torben Kuhlmann - From Netgalley. This was the first time we've requested a kiddies book from Netgalley and I think it's rather a good choice.

Clouds in my Coffee by Julie Mulhern - From BookBub. We've been meaning to start this series for some time. Now we can! 

Caught Dead Handed by Carol J. Perry - I think it was from Amazon Daily Deals. Don't know this series, but it does seem worth the try. 

Scratching the Blog Pole

We had 5 posts this week! Nope, I have no idea how that is possible. But my Mommy pulled it off! Don't expect it for the week to come though.

Curious Tuesday #2 - Optimizing Blogger Thanks for all the help and advice! The final verdict is that we will probably stay with Blogger, but just tweak a couple of things here and there. Like changing to our own domain and making a plan with FeedBurner. Watch this space!
Wondrous Words Wednesday - Cabriolet - Did you know that a cabriolet is not only Barbie's dream car, but a type of carriage? We didn't know that!
Six Degrees of Separation - I know what you did and I'm telling Mom! This months Six Degrees started with Beezus and Ramona by Beverley Cleary. We went with the annoying little sister theme. Like me. And my Mommy. 

On the Couch

Currently Reading
Absolutely nothing! My Mommy has Book Club tomorrow night and she made sure that there is nothing left on the nightstand to make space for new books. We do have two review books that we still need to read as well. We'll get to it. 


The Mitchells vs the Machines. Have your read Yes Please by Amy Poehler? Do you remember the last chapter The Robots will kill us all? Yup, it's happening. But we enjoyed the movie a lot. 

What have you been up to this week?

We've got a busy week ahead of us, but we will try to get to the blog as much as possible. 

Wishing you all a wonderful week and may you have an awesome May!

Lots of Love,

Read More

Six Degrees of Separation - I know what you did and I'm telling Mom!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Greetings you all! Can you believe it's the 1st of May already? At least this year we know what the date is. Last year this time nobody had a cat's tail idea what day it was on most given days. We didn't do a Six Degrees of Separation in April, but we are back this month. 

I'm sure by now you all know the rules of this monthly fun meme hosted by Books are my Favorite and BestOn the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Books can be linked in obvious ways, for example: same authors, same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or you might choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read in the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend or books that remind you of a particular time in your life. The choices are endless here! 

Our starting point this month is the first book in series that kids all over the world have loved for 20 years. 

Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she's taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble--and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona. 

I have 3 other feline siblings and unfortunately fortunately, I am Ramona in this household. Don't expect much sympathy with Beezus from my Mommy either. She is also a Ramona. I quite strongly suspect that my Aunt Hannelize, felt quite a lot the same towards my Mommy as Beezus did towards Ramona.

I guess you can see where we are going going with our Six Degrees post for today. It's all about Sisters. 

Yes, we know there is a third sister. But my Mommy couldn't find a photo with Hyacinth included. 

Everyone else as excited as we are for the release of this adaptation? 

With this one, we are starting to move away from the strong sisterly bond and the typical what you can expect from a sister books, to the darker side of sisterhood and family dynamics. 

Our last link today, links with the word 'Castle', as well as disturbing family dynamics, but still sisters that look out for each other. 

I've struggled a bit to find a photo with only the 3 sisters. This photo is also from the reel and and not the real Walls siblings. 

Do you have a sister? Are you a Beezus or a Ramona? I'm going to see which one of my siblings I can go pester and then run to Mommy if they try to pester me back. Wishing you all a lovely month of May!

Lots of Love,

Read More

Throwback Thursday #7 - Come, thou Tortoise

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Gosh, my Mommy is on such a roll this week. She's posted 6 days in a row. Nope, no idea what's up with that, but I'm not complaining here. I know she loves the blog and I'm glad she gets her days sorted in such a way that she has a bit more time to spend on the blogosphere. 

It's Thursday and time for Throwback Thursday. Guess what? My Mommy actually plays by Davida's rules for a change! 

  • The Chocolate Lady's #Throwback Thursday takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month. Yes, there is a linky and it will remain open until she uploads the new one. Thank Goodness. My first and last sometimes gets very confused. 
  • Your post must highlight one of your previously published book reviews and Davida encourages other participants to do the same. 
  • Add the link to your post and remember to link back to The Chocolate Lady's Book Blog And do not forget to #ThrowbackThursday!

As this is our 7th Throwback Thursday, Mommy is looking back at the 7th review that she's written. 

Goodness gracious me! This is a funny review. I sniggered more than once, but I do understand that it's a fond memory for her. Apparently this book was her inspiration to start blogging in 2016. I won't know, I wasn't the apple of her eye yet, as I wasn't even born yet. I don't think my feline mother was even born. Thank goodness she traded up from tortoises to cats. 

Come, Thou Tortoise
Author: Jessica Grant
Published: March 2009 (Knopf, Canada)
Pages: 412
Format: Paperback
Read: 19 March - 05 June 2016 (I know,.... But keep in mind - this was a book concerning a tortoise. I call it "empathetic reading")
Synopsis: When Audrey (a.k.a Oddly)  Flowers learns that her father has been hit on the head by a Christmas tree and is in a coma, she knows what she must do: leave Winnifred her tortoise behind, fly home, make a moving speech at his bedside and wait for him to wake up. When Audrey disarms an Air Marshall on route to St Johns and the Wednesday Pond, we realize there is something a bid odd about her.
Things didn't work out quite the way she planned. Instead, Audrey finds herself embarking on an extraordinary journey: one full of puzzlement and pain - but one that could also light up her life (very similar to a Christmas tree). Come, thou tortoise  unfolds in a world that is not quite our own; a place where you might just live forever if you can avoid the dangers, and where the truth can be hidden in the armrest of your airline seat.

Should you be in the very, very fortunate position to be following this blog * (amazement in the making here - watch this space) for the past two months - this is the book you should be thanking.

*This blog here refers to my Mommy's previous blog, MareliThalkink. Long before I was in the picture.  I think our blog, Elza Reads, is even more swoon worthy.

The idea of starting my own blog was simmering somewhere the back of my mind for a couple of months and it took Winnifred, the highly opinionated tortoise, to bring the idea to the boil. When I read the above quoted lines from Come, thou Tortoise, it was an enlightening moment. That is exactly what I have become! A bookmark. Really, think about it; I'm not working full-time anymore;* I'm at home most of the day; I spend most of my waking hours reading; at least 15 000 of my daily quota of 20 000 words per day are on books and authors and bookish blogs. See??? 

*My Mommy is working full-time again and not at home as much as I would like her to be. And she talks a lot of school. At least 25 000 words a day. 

"This is what I've been reduced to. A bookmark. Me thinks I need a plan"

What other choice did I have than to follow the wise-old tortoise's advice? I made a plan. And started my own blog. Maybe that is the main reason why it took me so long to finish this book. I didn't want to let go of Winnifred. I was hoping that she would be able to give me more advice on the important things in life. She did. And it was a bit more than just "Slow and steady wins the race".
You can read the rest of her very unstructured review by clicking on the link above. 

As always, I have asked her a couple of questions regarding the review:
  1. When was this review first published? - 06 June 2016
  2. Did you have any idea what you were doing? - Obviously not! But leave it. It shows that growth is always a possibility.
  3. Will you re-write this review? - Good grief, no. I would never be able to be so ridiculously creative again. And by ridiculously, I literally mean ridiculous.  
  4. Did you tweak this review? - A bit yes. Could have done more, I guess. But let's leave it as is. 
  5. Will you re-read the book? - I think so yes. I remember that I loved it. 
  6. Will you recommend others to read this review? If you want to have a laugh, yes. But the book comes highly recommended. 

End of last year, we've decided to combine Throwback Thursday with  Books from the Backlog, hosted by Carole's Random Life of BooksThis worked very well. By working well, I mean that my Mommy actually spend some time on her TBR shelf and cleared some space for new books. (She needs to do that every time we post on Books from the Backlog. Very effective)

Books from the Backlog is a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread.  If you are anything like me, you might be surprised by some of the unread books hiding in your stacks.

The 7th book on our TBR list of 502 books was Jasper Jones by Caig Silvey, but somehow I don't think we'll still get to it. So our list is now down to 501 and nr. 7 is: 

Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck, so he isn't too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys' juvenile detention centre. At Camp Green Lake the boys must dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the dried up lake bed. The Warden claims the labour is character building, but it is a lie. Stanley must dig up the truth.

I'm sure this little book needs no introduction. My Mommy has read this book years ago and she remembers that she told herself then already that one day she will read it again. I think one day is any day now. We just need to find a copy again. I believe there's one in the school library with the cover we've shared with you. Have you read Holes? Or is that one of those rhetorical questions?

Please remember to link your Throwback Thursday and your Books from the Backlog up to the two lovely hosts and share your books with us too! 

Lots of Love,


Read More