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In 1844, Flora Tristan embarked on a tour of France to campaign for workers’ and women’s rights. In 1891, her grandson set sail for Tahiti, determined to escape civilisation and seek out inspiration to paint his primitive masterpieces. Flora died before her grandson was born, but their travels and obsessions unravel side by side in this absorbing novel.
Flora, the illegitimate child of a wealthy Peruvian father and French mother, grows up in poverty, and after fleeing a brutal husband, journeys to Peru to demand her inheritance. On her return, she makes her name as a popular writer and a champion of the dispossessed, setting herself the arduous task of touring the French countryside to recruit members for her Workers’ Union.
Paul, struggling, profligate painter and stubborn visionary, abandons his wife and five children for life in the South Seas, where his dreams of paradise are poisoned by poverty, syphilis and the stifling forces of French colonialism, though he has his pick of teenage Tahitian lovers and paints some of his greatest works.
A rare study of passion, ambition and the determined pursuit of greatness in the face of illness, death and conservative forces, The Way to Paradise shows a contemporary master at the peak of his powers.
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