Sarah Coleman


The Realist

Inspired by the life and work of Berenice Abbott, one of modern photography’s most provocative and fearless heroines.

Cleveland, 1910: For a poor girl whose father has abandoned her, the prospect of becoming an artist is almost non-existent. But Bernice Abbott is resourceful and will happily challenge convention in order to succeed.

Setting out to fulfill her dream, she embarks on a journey that will take her from bohemian Greenwich Village to the giddy cafés of 1920s Paris to a New York rising from the ashes of the Great Depression. On the way, illness and a tragic romance test her mettle, but a lucky coincidence leads her to the emerging art form of photography.

Transforming herself from ‘dull’ Bernice to cosmopolitan Berenice, she sets the tone for life as a portrait photographer in the Paris of Hemingway and Picasso, and prepares to take on the men who are threatened by her vision and strength.

Independent, bisexual, a photographer and inventor—Berenice Abbott defied convention in life and art. In The Realist, Sarah Coleman offers a complex, engaging portrait in rich visual language that does justice to Abbott’s moxie and her luminous images. This is an impressive debut novel, as beautifully crafted as one of Abbott’s photographs. I loved everything about it.”Whitney Otto, author of Eight Girls Taking Pictures
The Realist is a wonder: gracefully written, poignantly rendered, and as illuminating as a camera’s brilliant flash in a dark room. In re-imagining the life of seminal photographer Berenice Abbott, Sarah Coleman has shaped a portrait of a woman who sees the world with great clarity, yet must fight for acceptance at every turn.”Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai
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