Girl in White, by Sue Hubbard


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This is a disappointing mix of fact and fiction, as Hubbard struggles to bring to life the story of the Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. She begins with Mathilde, Paula's daughter by Otto Modersohn, who is mourning the end of her affair with a married American musician by searching out her mother's home in the German countryside.

Running parallel is Paula's own story of growing up in a middle-class German family, where she is encouraged by her father to paint, and her time in Paris, before she settles in the artists' commune of Worpswede. Her relationship with the grieving widower Otto is disrupted by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she has an affair. There is much material here for a superb story. Unfortunately, too much explanation, and a rather limpid prose style, smother the possibilities.