Quietly dazzling ... The pacing is skillfully handled, creating the illusion of a genuine journal, with mundane observations of daily life juxtaposed against passages of great insight and wisdom ... The Manet who emerges crafts as insightfully with a fountain pen as a paintbrush: Gibbon creates wincingly convincing dramas of physical pain, with its vacillation between hope and disappointment, and quieter dramas from the interplay of memories tender and sensual ... Most striking of all is the way in which Gibbon convinces us that we are inside the mind of an artist in the act of creation; Manet's observations become ours; we become artists, co-creators ... The Lost Notebook sneaks up on you. I read slowly, almost impatiently, at first, perhaps wishing for a stronger narrative thread. But as I read on, I became mesmerized by the deep pleasure of taking time, immersing myself in the sensory delight of the small, the ordinary, the ephemeral. I felt I was learning to see, not just look. This book is a rare gift.
Emulating in words what Manet expressed in paint with his deft yet deeply evocative touch, Gibbon’s empathic portrait reaches to the bruised heart of creativity to elucidate how art sustains the soul and redeems a life.
Reminiscent of Victorian fiction, this epistolary novel reads as intimately as a found artifact from Manet himself. Readers may find it difficult to extract themselves from the story to recall that this is not in fact a primary source but rather a constructed narrative. This compelling and revealing book furthers a cultural understanding of Manet’s place in time and art, a difficult task for a difficult character. Very well done.