About the book
At first, Lydia loves being the wife of Maxfield Parrish, the most popular artist of the early twentieth century. As newlyweds, the Parrishes travel the world together, celebrating his early successes, and sharing the struggles of a young artist at the dawn of the Golden Age of Illustration. But this exciting life comes to an end when Parrish decides to give up traveling. Now that he’s become successful, their close partnership has come to an end. He spends all of his time working: at the easel, and building their home, a grand estate called The Oaks, in New Hampshire’s Cornish Colony. The summers are a never-ending round of dinner parties and socials, and Lydia is fascinated with the famous and the near-famous artists, writers, and musicians. Parrish complains about the constant interruptions, and is happiest when the colonists migrate south to their homes in Boston and New York to wait out the long, cold New Hampshire winters, but Lydia feels bored, trapped, and lonely. Out of desperation, she decides to raise a family, but the children only push Parrish further away. He builds himself a large studio next door, and moves into it with a young, beautiful model named Susan. Lydia has been replaced by a younger woman. Worse, Lydia finds that motherhood makes her miserable.
Hoping to recapture his interest, Lydia convinces Parrish to winter in the Sea Isles of Georgia. There, she is enchanted by the songs of the Gullah community of former slaves, whose singing reminds her of the spirituals she heard as a child, raised among the slaves brought north by the Quakers on the Underground Railroad. For thirty years, Lydia spends winters with the Gullah, recording their songs and legends for a book she hopes to publish. But then illness forces Lydia to return to The Oaks, where she is torn: should she stay and try to revive her marriage, or should she fulfill her own dream of saving the Gullah’s unique culture from being forever lost?
Leaving the Land of Make-Believe will appeal to readers of “Stolen Beauty,” “A Piece of the World,” and “The Painted Girls.”
How the book came to be
As an artist, my work is heavily influenced by the gorgeous palette of Maxfield Parrish. The book began as a fictionalized biography of Parrish, but as the writing progressed, I found that the story revealed in Lydia’s diaries and letters was the more compelling one. I was moved by her struggle to achieve a meaningful life and independence from her famous husband. Read more.
My artwork can be viewed here: www.bobnolin.com