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A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a compl A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a complicated past, gives her entrée into Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly--and unwisely--falling in love with Maynard Dixon, a brilliant but troubled painter. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives. The Bohemians captures San Francisco in the glittering and gritty 1920s, with cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence . At the same time, it is eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and the Spanish flu bring tumult to the city--and as the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.


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A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a compl A dazzling novel of one of America's most celebrated photographers, Dorothea Lange, exploring the wild years in San Francisco that awakened her career-defining grit, compassion, and daring. In 1918, Dorothea Lange leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a complicated past, gives her entrée into Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly--and unwisely--falling in love with Maynard Dixon, a brilliant but troubled painter. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio, but a devastating betrayal pushes their friendship to the breaking point and alters the course of their lives. The Bohemians captures San Francisco in the glittering and gritty 1920s, with cameos from such legendary figures as Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence . At the same time, it is eerily resonant with contemporary themes, as anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, and the Spanish flu bring tumult to the city--and as the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention persist against the ferocious pull of history.

30 review for The Bohemians

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik (Author), Dylan Moore (Narrator) Before I listened to this audiobook, my knowledge of Dorothea Lange was mostly having seen many of her famous Depression era photos. This book mostly focuses on Dorothea's early years in San Francisco, during the 1920s, so I took to the internet to learn all about her entire life and works, those of her one time husband Maynard Dixon, and the other artists that were part of the Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik (Author), Dylan Moore (Narrator) Before I listened to this audiobook, my knowledge of Dorothea Lange was mostly having seen many of her famous Depression era photos. This book mostly focuses on Dorothea's early years in San Francisco, during the 1920s, so I took to the internet to learn all about her entire life and works, those of her one time husband Maynard Dixon, and the other artists that were part of the Monkey Block, an artists' colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. We hear about many of the artists and some of the politicians and the politics of the day. Racism, the Spanish flu ravaging the country, corrupt politicians, and riots by various factions, mirror so much of what goes on today. Very little is known about the real life Chinese assistant that Dorothea employed during the time that she opened and ran her portrait studio but the author has turned that assistant into a fictional character named Caroline Lee. Through Caroline's fleshed out story we are able to see deeper into the prejudices towards the Chinese people in San Francisco and Caroline is the means to introducing Dorothea to the Monkey Block world of art, politics, and freedom from the rules of straight laced society.  Dorothea herself felt constricted by the expectations of society. She wanted to make a living with photography but would only ever be able to do the grunt work of a photographer's assistant if she had stayed on the east coast. Instead, she made her way to San Francisco and once she was able to have enough money to feed and house herself, she set her sites on opening her own portrait studio. She was smart, ambitious, and knew a bit about prejudices because of her time being shunned due to childhood polio and the fact that she walked with a limp. I enjoyed this story but it mostly left me wanting to know more about Dorothea and the artists of her world. The book primarily focuses on her early days and it's very interesting to see her history that led to her later work as a famous documentary photographer and photojournalist. Dorothea was a pioneer who put her comfort aside so that she could document the lives of those who suffered the most during the Great Depression. Dorothea also showed the Japanese American internment camps although most of those photos were not seen publicly during the war. Dorothea's life and work at the portrait studio led her to want to freedom of travel and getting to know and show her subjects in a much more personal way and she achieved her goal with great success.  Published April 6, 2021

  2. 5 out of 5

    PamG

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a biographical historical fiction novel that mainly covers the life of Dorothea Lange from 1918 through 1920 along with a small amount of information about her life after that. Dorothea was an amazing photographer and this fictionalized version of her life mainly covers the early years of her career as she arrives in San Francisco, is robbed, and then meets Caroline Lee, Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams and other famous individuals from the time. It focuses on th The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a biographical historical fiction novel that mainly covers the life of Dorothea Lange from 1918 through 1920 along with a small amount of information about her life after that. Dorothea was an amazing photographer and this fictionalized version of her life mainly covers the early years of her career as she arrives in San Francisco, is robbed, and then meets Caroline Lee, Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams and other famous individuals from the time. It focuses on the beginning of her career and how she transitioned from a portrait photographer for the rich and famous to photographing ordinary people. The author brought a strong sense of time and place to the people and events in the book. While this is fiction, it includes many events that actually occurred. Her writing style was very descriptive and pulled this reader into the events and lives of Dorothea and Caroline. While this is a book set approximately 100 years ago, many of the same issues and themes are still true today: anti-immigration sentiment, corrupt politicians, poverty, racism, and a world-wide pandemic. But there were also more uplifting themes as well including friendship, love, self-confidence, the art community, and much more. Overall, this book captivated me and I learned a lot about Dorothea and the history of San Francisco. I wished there was a bibliography or source notes at the end. Readers that are interested in gritty 1920s San Francisco, Dorothea Lange, or historical fiction will likely enjoy this book. Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine and Jasmin Darznik provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for April 06, 2021.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) at the beginning of the 20th century is the best painter in San Francisco. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) in 1918 is a new comer to the Bohemian San Francisco, hoping to make a path for herself as a portrait photographer. Today, she is most recognized for influencing journalistic photography. 1918. Dorrie, nearly twenty-three, arrives in San Francisco with a camera and a head full of ideas. As she tries to figure her way around the city, she meets Caroline Lee. Caroline intr Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) at the beginning of the 20th century is the best painter in San Francisco. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) in 1918 is a new comer to the Bohemian San Francisco, hoping to make a path for herself as a portrait photographer. Today, she is most recognized for influencing journalistic photography. 1918. Dorrie, nearly twenty-three, arrives in San Francisco with a camera and a head full of ideas. As she tries to figure her way around the city, she meets Caroline Lee. Caroline introduces Dorrie to Monkey Block. A district full of life and bohemians. Dorrie’s first job in the city is a step-down from what she was doing in New York. But it is a step-up when she sees an opportunity she didn’t see in New York. In New York, she “couldn’t make it any further than somebody’s assistant.” In San Francisco might be different. There are successful women photographers here. Flourishing, because there were no established photographers in the city due to the earthquake of 1906 that not only devastated the city, but also made many artists leave the city. Thus, making a way for a new generation of bohemians, which allowed women to establish themselves. I very much enjoyed the atmosphere of the artistic community. The description of the place where Caroline lives truly brings the meaning of a bohemian community. It’s like a village or a settlement. A building full of rooms, each containing a different person with a different interest. Some rooms were crowded with canvases or a jumble of books or a half-finished sculpture or a dressmaker’s dummy or a grand piano. The historical background is textured with many layers. We get a glimpse of the effects of the 1906 earthquake, the Spanish flue of 1918 reaching the West Coast, and earlier devastating the East Coast. The dimensions of the photography are beautifully explored. What it means to catch the right light, just by moving the camera by 2 inches, the right angle and the right composition. The stiffness of proper attire and straight standing or sitting posture where making space for something more unique. And of course, the bohemian community is phenomenal and the cast of artists is very rich making it a very vibrant story. And a sad part of racism, including The Palmer Raids of 1919-1920. Caroline of Chinese decent knows what it means to be Oriental in early 20th century San Francisco. Not allowed to live outside Chinatown, experiencing discrimination at work, very limited to what she can do and where she can work. And how people view her. The character development is exquisite as well. Dorrie is left with a limp leg after a polio. Her friend helps her to overcome her insecurities. And the love of photography is her gift which she grabs and explores. You can feel her passion. With not an easy childhood, she comes triumphant with making her own path. Through character development, we also see friendship among women and support of each other, to propel each other to success. The prose is grasping from the first pages. You get attached to the characters as quickly and care for them deeply. The plot carries the story forward constantly. Thus, in summary making it a fascinating read. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    In 1918 Dorothea Lange arrives in San Francisco. She left New York with a small sum of money, her camera and a great deal of ambition. She arrives in SF with only her camera having been robbed on the ship. She doesn't know anyone, is desperate, doesn't know where to turn. All this will change when she meets Caroline Lee and is introduced to the Monkey building with its large occupancy of Bohemians. A terrific read of the beginning career of a photographer who will become world renown. Her life, h In 1918 Dorothea Lange arrives in San Francisco. She left New York with a small sum of money, her camera and a great deal of ambition. She arrives in SF with only her camera having been robbed on the ship. She doesn't know anyone, is desperate, doesn't know where to turn. All this will change when she meets Caroline Lee and is introduced to the Monkey building with its large occupancy of Bohemians. A terrific read of the beginning career of a photographer who will become world renown. Her life, her struggles, her marriage and the prejudice she fought against those who thought a woman should not have a career. Much of this is factual and she did have an Asian asst. though Caroline herself, an amazing character is a fictional construct. SF is drawn in all it glory alongside it's ugliness. Bigotry against the Chinese is prevalent and strident. Something that is currently happening in our present day. We seem to never learn but keep repeating past mistakes. This was a nostalgic read, a place and time gone by. People and places gone, the new built on top of the old. I don't read my friends reviews but I do look at their star ratings. So when I started reading this, after seeing all those 4 & 5 stars, I initially wasn't very impressed. By books end though I was singing, I fell in love with a book. And I did, I loved the characters, the history, the ending and the authors note.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I was a huge fan of Song of a Captive Bird and was shocked when it didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. So, I was anxious to read The Bohemians. Darznik did such a good job capturing the life of Forugh Farrokhzhad, I wanted to see how she would handle Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s portrait of Florence Thompson is supposedly the most reproduced photo in the world. This book tackles Lange’s early life, her “coming of age story”, starting with her arrival in San Franci I was a huge fan of Song of a Captive Bird and was shocked when it didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved. So, I was anxious to read The Bohemians. Darznik did such a good job capturing the life of Forugh Farrokhzhad, I wanted to see how she would handle Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s portrait of Florence Thompson is supposedly the most reproduced photo in the world. This book tackles Lange’s early life, her “coming of age story”, starting with her arrival in San Francisco in 1918. Darznik does a fabulous job of giving us the time and place - the city, the racism, the art world, the social strata. She effortlessly weaves in the after effects of 1906 Earthquake and Fire, WWI, the Spanish Flu and the Palmer Raids. She also blends in Lange’s real life artist friends - Imogen Cunningham, Maynard Dixon and Ansel Adams. Dixon even goes on to become her husband. Once again, she provides the reader with complete character portrayals. She makes a point of explaining Lange’s idea that she was a trades woman, not an artist. By contrast, Dixon believes himself an artist and hates the need for commercial work. As expected, they quickly fall into the traditional marital roles and it’s Lange who suffers. And oh, did I feel for her as she navigated the problems of step-parenthood. The book also does a fabulous job of portraying her friendship with Caroline Lee, who introduces her to the Monkey Block community and helps Dorothea overcome all her insecurities tied to her bad leg. One of my favorite parts of any historical fiction is the author’s note and this is no exception. Darznik goes further than most, outlining her history with the city but also her philosophy about historical fiction. One quote rang especially true -“ in much the same way that every portrait is a self-portrait, every historical novel is to some degree a contemporary novel.” While I didn’t love this the way I did Song of the Captive Bird, I still recommend it for those that love historical fiction. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    5 enchanting stars This one checked all of the boxes for me! Historical fiction based on a real person and it completely enchanted me! I’m sure most people recognize Dorothea Lange’s most famous photograph -- “Migrant Mother” -- from the Depression. This book tells the story of Dorothea’s early days arriving in San Francisco in 1918 from New York and how she built a career for herself from nothing! This was especially tough for women to do solo, she even had to get a man to sign the lease for her 5 enchanting stars This one checked all of the boxes for me! Historical fiction based on a real person and it completely enchanted me! I’m sure most people recognize Dorothea Lange’s most famous photograph -- “Migrant Mother” -- from the Depression. This book tells the story of Dorothea’s early days arriving in San Francisco in 1918 from New York and how she built a career for herself from nothing! This was especially tough for women to do solo, she even had to get a man to sign the lease for her photography studio. I loved how the author created a magical world of those heady days in San Francisco when artists congregated in the Monkey Block. I loved her friendship with Caroline, a Chinese woman who faced great discrimination. It was also fascinating to read about the Spanish Flu in 1918 and people having to wear masks! It was fun to have other famous people populate this one – Ansel Adams, Maynard Dixon, Frida Kahlo, and DH Lawrence. There was also a tense description of the devastating earthquake and fires that hit San Francisco in 1906. This book was never boring to me and I rooted for Dorothea to reconcile her physical trials after a childhood bout with polio, and her desire to be an amazing portrait photographer. She had to be so resilient to find success and love. This was a surprise wonderful read! I really liked the writing style and I want to read more from this author. Thank you to Random House/Ballantine for the complimentary copy of this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    The Bohemians, a novel with Dorothea Lange, at its center, is totally fascinating. Dorothea Lange was a much-celebrated American photographer who is most known for her influence on journalistic photography. Dorothea grew up on the East Coat of America and contracted polio as a child which left her with a limp. She grew up feeling inferior and invisible. When she was 22 years old, in 1918, she left her life at home and went to California to start a new life on her own. She had a major setback imme The Bohemians, a novel with Dorothea Lange, at its center, is totally fascinating. Dorothea Lange was a much-celebrated American photographer who is most known for her influence on journalistic photography. Dorothea grew up on the East Coat of America and contracted polio as a child which left her with a limp. She grew up feeling inferior and invisible. When she was 22 years old, in 1918, she left her life at home and went to California to start a new life on her own. She had a major setback immediately upon arriving in San Franciso. Then she met Caroline Lee, a Chinese-American girl who was about her age. Caroline introduced Dorrie (Dorothea) to the artist colony of bohemians living at "Monkey Block". Caroline has her own tragic story which rivals Dorrie for center stage in this book. Dorrie found a job in San Francisco that was not as lucrative as her job on the East Coast had been; but, hey - you have to start somewhere, right? Then, through meeting the right people and taking some risks, things began to change for Dorrie. I loved this book, and loved the characters - especially Dorrie and Caroline. The writing is captivating and kept me enthralled with the story. The history of San Francisco revealed in the story opened my eyes to some parts of American history I was unaware of before. I have to say the attitudes of the general public in the area toward the Chinese people at the time was revolting to me. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars ’San Francisco isn’t what it used to be. And it never was.’ - Will Irwin to Herb Cain, San Francisco Chronicle This story captures the aura of this place and time in much the same way that Dorothea Lange captured the plight of the many poverty stricken Americans during the Great Depression. It is at times heartbreaking, eerily relevant to our times, a look at San Francisco as it was in the years leading up to the Great Depression and the War, along with the rise in anti-Asian rhetoric th 4.5 Stars ’San Francisco isn’t what it used to be. And it never was.’ - Will Irwin to Herb Cain, San Francisco Chronicle This story captures the aura of this place and time in much the same way that Dorothea Lange captured the plight of the many poverty stricken Americans during the Great Depression. It is at times heartbreaking, eerily relevant to our times, a look at San Francisco as it was in the years leading up to the Great Depression and the War, along with the rise in anti-Asian rhetoric throughout much of the country, and laws banning Chinese and Japanese immigrants from living in certain areas, the pandemic of 1918, and more. In 1918 Dorothea Lange left her home in Hoboken, New Jersey, not quite yet twenty-three, with just enough clothes for a few days, basic toiletries, and a copy of Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She arrived in San Francisco not knowing a soul, with a little over one hundred and forty dollars, cash, to live on for a short time, and her camera. Within hours, she discovers that her money has been stolen by a pickpocket who passes her on the street. Money that took her two years to save, gone. Shortly after, after she meets Caroline, a young elegantly dressed Chinese American woman who befriends her, and will end up not only being a lifeline for Dorothea, but a lifelong friend. Through her, Dorothea Lange will meet many influential people, D. H. Lawrence, Frida Kahlo, Mabel Dodge Luhan. Some are influential to her career - like Ansel Adams - and others whose influence is more political. There is a lot in this story that is relevant to our current days, a pandemic, corruption in politics, racism and anti-immigration attitudes taking on a more threatening tone. It’s not difficult to see that her ability to see the good in people influenced her photography, especially after she closes her studio doors and travels the country, sharing her heartbreaking, iconic photographs taken during the Great Depression. Ones like her best known photograph, Migrant Mother, that most people recognize when they see it, even if they don’t recall the name. While this is primarily about Dorothea Lange, this also is about an iconic era, the years that follow the pandemic - San Francisco in the early 1920’s. Lange meets people who will help her set up her first studio with Caroline as her assistant, as well as, eventually, the man who will become her husband, Maynard Dixon. She is swept up in the nonconformist, bohemian life of the era and, like a butterfly, she slips off the cocoon of her old life and spreads her wings, finally believing in herself. An awakening by a woman who recognized her calling early on, and lived an incredibly rewarding life when she realized how she could make others more aware of the pain these people were enduring. Sharing this message with the world through her eyes and her camera was her gift and her legacy. Published: 06 Apr 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine / Ballantine Books

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I hadn’t heard of Dorothea Lange, the subject of this book. When I Googled her and saw those haunting images of the American Depression, I immediately recognised her work. I looked forward to learning more about her and her experiences during this time. Jasmin Darznik is the author of the excellent Song of a Captive Bird which so movingly portrays the life of the Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. I loved that book so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s not a repeat performance. At first, I I hadn’t heard of Dorothea Lange, the subject of this book. When I Googled her and saw those haunting images of the American Depression, I immediately recognised her work. I looked forward to learning more about her and her experiences during this time. Jasmin Darznik is the author of the excellent Song of a Captive Bird which so movingly portrays the life of the Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. I loved that book so I was excited to read this one. Sadly, it’s not a repeat performance. At first, I was intrigued to learn about so many people I hadn’t heard of before such as the photographers Imogen Cunningham and Consuelo Kanaga. Together with Lange, they were successful female photographers in the early decades of the 20th century and I enjoyed exploring their work online. I also learned about Arnold Genthe, Lange’s mentor, and his wonderful photographs of San Francisco’s Chinatown before the 1906 earthquake and fires. We also meet Ansel Adams and learn about Lange’s disastrous marriage to the artist, Maynard Dixon. The storyline is largely about Dorothea’s early career, and her friendship with Caroline who is half-Chinese. Discrimination against the Chinese population at that time was horrific and cruel. Signs saying No Chinese were prevalent and it was impossible for them to rent property outside of Chinatown. Chinese immigration to the USA had been legally banned in the previous century, other than for a few exempted professions, and the law wasn’t completely repealed until 1952. Much of the book is devoted to this subject, perhaps too much overall. It’s interesting but it impacted on Caroline’s life, not on Dorothea’s, other than on their friendship. The reason for Caroline’s eventual disappearance from Dorothea’s life is fictionalised which I was disappointed to learn in the book’s epilogue. Overall, I’m disappointed in this book. It felt dry and longwinded. I didn’t feel any personal connection to Dorothea Lange which I had expected after Song of a Captive Bird. The author’s intention was to explore Dorothea’s early years but I personally feel that it would have been a more satisfying journey if it had concentrated on her later work. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to read it because I learned, through following up references, so much about the early women pioneers in photography, but I’m honestly sorry to say that it didn’t meet my high expectations. With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for a review copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    What a good story! The author really pulls you into the setting and makes San Francisco so alive, the reader can feel as if they know this city well, even if they have never spent time there. I liked the way Jasmin Darznik incorporated actual events into the story, such as the Flu Epidemic and the city's racist policies against Asians - both issues we are dealing with now in 2021. The narrarive is very readable and I enjoyed the caring relationship between Dorothea Lange and Caroline Lee. I love rea What a good story! The author really pulls you into the setting and makes San Francisco so alive, the reader can feel as if they know this city well, even if they have never spent time there. I liked the way Jasmin Darznik incorporated actual events into the story, such as the Flu Epidemic and the city's racist policies against Asians - both issues we are dealing with now in 2021. The narrarive is very readable and I enjoyed the caring relationship between Dorothea Lange and Caroline Lee. I love reading about the Bohemian era around the turn of the 19th century and found it facinating thatall the the characters were based on real people. Since this book was so well reasearched, I plan to read Jasmin Darznik's first book "The Good Daughter", which is a memoir of the author's mother's first marriage at 13, and the child she had to give up in Iran. I would recommend "The Bohemians" to anyone who likes historical fiction.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    5 Stars I'm super behind on my reviews so this will be brief. This is a historical fiction based on a real photographer, Dorothea Lange. Dorothea arrived in San Francisco in 1918 determined to be a photographer in her own right. The first friend she met was a Chinese woman, Caroline, who became her BFF and business partner. Together they built a wildly popular and pricy photography studio that was top of it's game until Caroline left San Francisco and Dorothea eventually closed it to pursue other 5 Stars I'm super behind on my reviews so this will be brief. This is a historical fiction based on a real photographer, Dorothea Lange. Dorothea arrived in San Francisco in 1918 determined to be a photographer in her own right. The first friend she met was a Chinese woman, Caroline, who became her BFF and business partner. Together they built a wildly popular and pricy photography studio that was top of it's game until Caroline left San Francisco and Dorothea eventually closed it to pursue other interests. Dorothea was ahead of her time; she was one of the first female photography studio owners, she befriended a Chinese woman at a time when anti-Asian sentiment (particularly in California) was at an all time high and she stood up to a very powerful man. The book is set during a fascinating time in San Francisco history in a very unique place, a building called Monkey Block, which was filled with all kinds of artists and bohemians. Such a fantastic setting. You could probably write about paint drying in that setting and it would make a good book. Additionally, there are many themes in this story that, although it's set one hundred years ago, are super relevant today. They experienced the Spanish flu pandemic; we are dealing with the covid pandemic. They were dealing with extreme racism, and in California, a lot of it was directed toward Chinese, like now. There were unreasonable laws restricting immigration, like now. And women were fighting for equality, like now. It's both fascinating and sad that some of these issues are still ongoing. How have they not been solved? I loved every set of Dorothea's story. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written historical fiction about a strong woman with a LOT of nerve and drive.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I absolutely LOVE historical fiction when the author has done their homework and accurately based the story on a timeline and events that actually happened. Jasmin Darznik definitely completed her thesis before putting pen to paper for this enthralling read about a woman who was light-years ahead of her time. I never knew the foundation of Dorothea Lange, I’ve always been enamored by the eye she had for extremely moving photography, her bravery to go into the masses with her huge and bulky camera I absolutely LOVE historical fiction when the author has done their homework and accurately based the story on a timeline and events that actually happened. Jasmin Darznik definitely completed her thesis before putting pen to paper for this enthralling read about a woman who was light-years ahead of her time. I never knew the foundation of Dorothea Lange, I’ve always been enamored by the eye she had for extremely moving photography, her bravery to go into the masses with her huge and bulky camera strapped around her neck. This is such an informative book, bringing to life the “Monkey Block” that existed in San Francisco. And Dorothea’s first studio, created with the help of her hardworking assistant, Caroline, a Chinese-American. The year was 1918 and the American public felt threatened by anyone who looked slightly Asian. That aspect isn’t hard to believe, especially today with hate crimes against Asian Americans soaring, an absolutely disgusting side of human nature. The plot centers on the close relationship between Dorothea and Caroline. Ms. Darznik brings 1918 San Francisco to life with her lyrical yet fact-based descriptions. We meet numerous budding artists, years before they had any clue what their future held. But we know, and that adds so much to this story. I’ve always honored Dorothea Lange, she was an amazing person. This book added to my understanding of her, the struggles, her loves, and how her beautiful talent became a legendary work of art. Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is April 6, 2021.

  13. 4 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    It’s 1918 and the almost twenty-three year old Dorothea Lange has traveled west to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a professional photographer. As she arrives, she has her life savings stolen from her. She is alone and penniless. Luckily she meets Caroline Lee who helps her find a place to live and takes her to the bohemian artist community called Monkey Block which is the area’s hub of creativity. The Bohemians is a fictionalize account of the early days of the life and career of Lange, w It’s 1918 and the almost twenty-three year old Dorothea Lange has traveled west to San Francisco with dreams of becoming a professional photographer. As she arrives, she has her life savings stolen from her. She is alone and penniless. Luckily she meets Caroline Lee who helps her find a place to live and takes her to the bohemian artist community called Monkey Block which is the area’s hub of creativity. The Bohemians is a fictionalize account of the early days of the life and career of Lange, who is now heralded as a great American documentary photographer. But before she developed her now famous style, we learn how she developed local fame as a portrait photographer for the wealthy. She meets many popular and emerging artists including painter Maynard Dixon, who she eventually marries. While Dorothea becomes established and is able to make a living, Caroline has to continually deal with horrible anti-Asian discrimination. Their friendship is the heart of the book. Author Jasmin Darznik’s beautifully descriptive writing takes us through the final days of World War I, the devastation of the Spanish flu and the start of the Great Depression. Whether you are familiar with the work of Dorothea Lange or not, this is a fascinating story which provides good insight not only to a talented woman’s journey but a time of social change. Women were starting to rise up and seek new freedoms and opportunities while others were held back due to racial fear and hatred. This is a quick read but you’ll want to stop at times and look up the referenced artists and artwork mentioned. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books / Random House for the opportunity to read The Bohemians in advance of its April 6, 2021 publication. Rated 4.25 stars. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a great historical fiction that focusses on the early years of Dorothea Lange, one of the women pioneers in photography. Sadly, I had not heard of Ms Lange and it was fascinating to learn not only about her, but about a whole group of famous and exceptional photographers that were in the thick of it during the early 20th century. I also got to learn about her personal life as well as her professional life. I also was introduced to her close friend, Caroline Lee The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a great historical fiction that focusses on the early years of Dorothea Lange, one of the women pioneers in photography. Sadly, I had not heard of Ms Lange and it was fascinating to learn not only about her, but about a whole group of famous and exceptional photographers that were in the thick of it during the early 20th century. I also got to learn about her personal life as well as her professional life. I also was introduced to her close friend, Caroline Lee and her volatile marriage to painter, Manyard Dixon. It was so exciting to learn about so many fascinating artists, and reading this fictional story based on real people, as well as the informative Author’s Note has spurned plenty of research already on my part to find out even more. 4/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Debbi

    Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an early reader copy! I literally could not put this book down! Beautifully researched and written, The Bohemians takes us into the early life of Dorothea Lange, renowned photographer, and follows her through early successes and challenges to show us how she became the amazing woman that she was. Dorothea arrives in San Francisco in 1918 from New Jersey, exhausted and broke. She meets Chinese American Caroline Lee and a friendship forms that will take Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an early reader copy! I literally could not put this book down! Beautifully researched and written, The Bohemians takes us into the early life of Dorothea Lange, renowned photographer, and follows her through early successes and challenges to show us how she became the amazing woman that she was. Dorothea arrives in San Francisco in 1918 from New Jersey, exhausted and broke. She meets Chinese American Caroline Lee and a friendship forms that will take Dorothea into the so-called Bohemian scene in San Francisco, and deep into all the ugly sides of American at the time. The Spanish flu is on the East Coast and there is a sense of invincibility in San Francisco, but buried down the side streets are the stains of racism, prostitution, corruption, poverty and more. Dorothea tells us her story from that painful arrival to early successes and later failures, personal and professional. It's so compelling that its as if we are walking with her through the streets and alleys of San Francisco. Absolutely awesome read, store up your sleep because you'll want to read this straight through!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kati Berman

    I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What a perfect time to read this book about photographer Dorothea Lange’s life. Her early career in San Francisco during the years of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, unrest in the streets, the animosity against immigrants ring true today 100 years later during the Covid pandemic and political unrest . Historical fiction is my favorite genre, I always learn something I didn’t know before. I was familiar with the picture Migrant I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What a perfect time to read this book about photographer Dorothea Lange’s life. Her early career in San Francisco during the years of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, unrest in the streets, the animosity against immigrants ring true today 100 years later during the Covid pandemic and political unrest . Historical fiction is my favorite genre, I always learn something I didn’t know before. I was familiar with the picture Migrant Mother, but I couldn’t have named the photographer who took the picture. I googled her life before starting the book. I loved Song of a Captive Bird by this author and I was excited to read this new book, and I was not disappointed. The book kept my attention from the first page, I was drawn to the characters . Reading the historical notes at the end of the book made me appreciate how much research went into writing this book. The title Bohemians refers to the group of artists, painters, photographers, journalists in San Francisco living in the early 20th century, as the city had been rebuilt after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fires. Many of the characters in the book are real historical figures, others are fictional characters based on real people. Dorothea’s assistant Caroline Lee is such a character, and according to the author’s note, much of her life was the author’s imagination. Dorothea’s marriage to Maynard Dixon is mentioned, including the ups and downs in their marriage. I was disappointed though that the two sons born of this marriage are barely mentioned. I realize this novel concentrated on Dorothea’s early Bohemian years, but I still felt the rest of her career was squeezed into the last chapter without too much detail. Overall a 4.5 star book, rounded up yo five. Thanks NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the advanced copy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This stunning story was evocative of San Francisco during the year 1918 and beyond. I learned alot about the history of San Francisco. The earthquake of 1906 and the fires, the pandemic of 1918, racism and the depression. The story revolves around Dorthea Lange who is a portrait photographer and how she elevates her position into the world of other artists and well connected people. I really enjoyed her journey. Especially her friendship with Caroline, an Asian-American woman who she builds a bu This stunning story was evocative of San Francisco during the year 1918 and beyond. I learned alot about the history of San Francisco. The earthquake of 1906 and the fires, the pandemic of 1918, racism and the depression. The story revolves around Dorthea Lange who is a portrait photographer and how she elevates her position into the world of other artists and well connected people. I really enjoyed her journey. Especially her friendship with Caroline, an Asian-American woman who she builds a business with. The atmospheric scenes of that time were very vivid. This book was fantastic. One that has left an imprint on me. I look forward to reading more from Jasmin Darznik. She is a very gifted writer.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hardcover Hearts

    What a surprise of a book! I was expecting to enjoy this book for a few reasons- I like the author's last novel and this one blends many things I truly enjoy- San Francisco history (especially around the time of the 1906 quake), and women artists (this time the photographer Dorothea Lange). What I didn't expect was to learn so much about the artists who lived here, a part of town I knew nothing about, the impact of the Spanish Flu on the city (so similar to what's happening now with COVID), and What a surprise of a book! I was expecting to enjoy this book for a few reasons- I like the author's last novel and this one blends many things I truly enjoy- San Francisco history (especially around the time of the 1906 quake), and women artists (this time the photographer Dorothea Lange). What I didn't expect was to learn so much about the artists who lived here, a part of town I knew nothing about, the impact of the Spanish Flu on the city (so similar to what's happening now with COVID), and about Dorothea Lange's early professional year. But it was especially interesting to see the anti-Asian parallels from then to today, through the character of her assistant Caroline Lee. This did exactly what I want in a historical fiction book- make me feel that enough research was done to be authentic, and then to craft a story that puts me there. I found it wonderful, informative and transporting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sean Reiter

    Jasmin Darznik’s excellent The Bohemians offers a well-crafted escape from the current zombie apocalypse with a young Dorothea Lange’s journey into energetic early 20th century San Francisco. At the same time, it provides a great reminder of how 100 years later, many faults of those times remain far from repaired. Darznik paints beautiful portraits of captivating women in vivid scenes. Strongly recommend!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    I loved this book!! I was totally immersed in this fascinating story of early San Francisco, specifically as this novel focused on the artists and their creative community ("The Bohemians"). With the spotlight on iconic photographer Dorothea Lange at the beginning of her career, Darznik skillfully incorporates the motif of reinvention (of Lange, of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, and of Lange's friend Caroline Lee). The cultural themes of racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are chillin I loved this book!! I was totally immersed in this fascinating story of early San Francisco, specifically as this novel focused on the artists and their creative community ("The Bohemians"). With the spotlight on iconic photographer Dorothea Lange at the beginning of her career, Darznik skillfully incorporates the motif of reinvention (of Lange, of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, and of Lange's friend Caroline Lee). The cultural themes of racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are chillingly similar to today's headlines, as are attitudes of class (haves vs. have-nots) and sexism - all portrayed with historical accuracy. Many of the characters in the novel are real people, and several were familiar to me from other books I've read, especially a Georgia O'Keeffe biography. I enjoyed reading about the young Ansel Adams as well as the early days of San Francisco. Darznik blends fact and fiction to create an engrossing novel that I encourage you to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Another historical novel about Dorothea Lange—the second one I've read in less than a year. This one focuses on the years immediately after Lange's arrival in San Fransisco in 1918. Surprisingly, there were a number of parallels to our current day issues—a pandemic (the Spanish flu), extreme nationalism, and racism and violence toward immigrants, especially those from China. Dorothea Lange's story plays out against this backdrop, and the book was absorbing and, at times, riveting. Definitely rec Another historical novel about Dorothea Lange—the second one I've read in less than a year. This one focuses on the years immediately after Lange's arrival in San Fransisco in 1918. Surprisingly, there were a number of parallels to our current day issues—a pandemic (the Spanish flu), extreme nationalism, and racism and violence toward immigrants, especially those from China. Dorothea Lange's story plays out against this backdrop, and the book was absorbing and, at times, riveting. Definitely recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Artayet Shepherd

    I love reading about persistent and resilient women like Dorothea Lange and went down a rabbit hole to look at her photography, realizing I knew her works but not her life. This novel was needed and I highly respect it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Reilly

    A story I am very connected with as I attended SF Art institute between 1970 and 1972 as a photo major . Imogene Cunningham was still on the staff and my main instructor was a Dorothea Lang protege I had no historical perspective however. This book provided this I thought Dorothea was was telling the whole story, the interaction of the characters most believable, and mostly true with the exception of the wonderful character Caroline. Evidently, there was indeed a Caroline but the Character was f A story I am very connected with as I attended SF Art institute between 1970 and 1972 as a photo major . Imogene Cunningham was still on the staff and my main instructor was a Dorothea Lang protege I had no historical perspective however. This book provided this I thought Dorothea was was telling the whole story, the interaction of the characters most believable, and mostly true with the exception of the wonderful character Caroline. Evidently, there was indeed a Caroline but the Character was fictionalized . North beach was very much alive when I was there but this books put it in a wonderful perspective of history Loved this book

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alena

    This is a fictionalized biography of Dorothea Lange's youth, her beginnings as a photographer. We know her for her the portraits of the Great Depression, but she started photographing the social elite in San Francisco. Its 1918, Dorothea Lange just arrives to San Francisco, soon she meets Caroline Lee, a friend, confidant and colleague. Caroline will introduce her the Bohemian society of the city: photographers, painters, and writers. San Francisco in the 20s is unique. After the earthquake, there This is a fictionalized biography of Dorothea Lange's youth, her beginnings as a photographer. We know her for her the portraits of the Great Depression, but she started photographing the social elite in San Francisco. Its 1918, Dorothea Lange just arrives to San Francisco, soon she meets Caroline Lee, a friend, confidant and colleague. Caroline will introduce her the Bohemian society of the city: photographers, painters, and writers. San Francisco in the 20s is unique. After the earthquake, there are opportunities for women, they can be artists and be successful. Dorothea's passion are portraits and her talent will allow her to open her own studio. I loved this novel, the writing style its very vivid and can transport you. It feels like you can walk for the streets of San Francisco and maybe be part of the Bohemian society. I want to mention, this is Dorothea Lange´s story, but Caroline it's a very important character, her character is fiction, based on a real person, Ah-Yee (Her name and that she worked with Lange is the only information we have about her).Through her eyes we will witness the racism of the time, Chinese people could not live outside of Chinatown, there were acts of aggression against them and it was difficult to find work. Thank you Netgalley and Ballantine Books for the ARC.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Jasmin Darznik has pulled off the feat all writers hope to accomplish. With this book in hand we are transported and returned so very satisfied. From the opening pages of The Bohemians, our narrator Dorothea Lange, reflects on her start in 1918 San Francisco and takes us there. The subtle and particular details completely immerse the reader in another time and dare us not to care about these characters. Dorothea Lange created a career as a photographer with her talent and grit. In this exquisite Jasmin Darznik has pulled off the feat all writers hope to accomplish. With this book in hand we are transported and returned so very satisfied. From the opening pages of The Bohemians, our narrator Dorothea Lange, reflects on her start in 1918 San Francisco and takes us there. The subtle and particular details completely immerse the reader in another time and dare us not to care about these characters. Dorothea Lange created a career as a photographer with her talent and grit. In this exquisitely imagined book, Darznik creates a reading experience not soon to be forgotten.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Viscosi

    The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a recounting of the life of Dorothea Lange, a famous documentary photographer. Dorothea travels from the East Coast to San Francisco. She hasn't been exposed to the big world and after she is pickpocketed, things look grim. A chance encounter on a trolley leads her to a new friend, Caroline Lee. Together they explore life in the artists' colony called Monkey Block. Making new friends opens Dorothea's eyes up to the variety of lifestyles in the up and coming tow The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik is a recounting of the life of Dorothea Lange, a famous documentary photographer. Dorothea travels from the East Coast to San Francisco. She hasn't been exposed to the big world and after she is pickpocketed, things look grim. A chance encounter on a trolley leads her to a new friend, Caroline Lee. Together they explore life in the artists' colony called Monkey Block. Making new friends opens Dorothea's eyes up to the variety of lifestyles in the up and coming town. Dorothea works hard and is fortunate enough to find a sponsor to help her open a portrait studio. Her portraits are the talk of high society and she enjoys doing what she loves. She marries Maynard Dixon and works hard to balance married life and the demands of a career. Her marriage flounders. The Great Depression begins and the demand for portraits ends. She closes her portrait studio. The changing times show Dorothea another side of life and spark her creativity. She begins photographing the impact of The Great Depression, these are the photographs that make her famous. In covering Dorothea Lange's life, Jasmin Darznik details life in 1920s San Francisco. The myriad of styles and attitudes illustrate the rapidly changing times. It is a wonderful opportunity to look at the life experiences that have shaped such a prominent artist.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I am drawn to novels featuring women in the early-to mid 20 th century. More often than not, they faced a future with no options, or very limited ones. And, their challenges often involved putting aside their true self . THE BOHEMIANS takes us on such a journey through the fictional story of noted photographer Dorothea Lange in early San Francisco. The artist’s name was known to me, but I was not familiar with her work, or her life story. Jasmin Darznik’s fictional account both inspired and daunt I am drawn to novels featuring women in the early-to mid 20 th century. More often than not, they faced a future with no options, or very limited ones. And, their challenges often involved putting aside their true self . THE BOHEMIANS takes us on such a journey through the fictional story of noted photographer Dorothea Lange in early San Francisco. The artist’s name was known to me, but I was not familiar with her work, or her life story. Jasmin Darznik’s fictional account both inspired and daunted me. The story brought out her conundrum of choosing professional fulfillment or love. It was too much of a challenge to hold on to both. I loved the author’s ability to immerse the reader in the creative circle that included Lange, Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams and other free spirits of San Francisco around 1920. The dark cloud that also hovers throughout the novel is the vicious prejudice against Chinese immigrants. This issue was central to the story and a painful reminder of this dark chapter in our history. THE BOHEMIANS was a compelling story about a brave and talented woman, but perhaps the element that will stick with me the longest is the reminder of the power of friendships to influence the course of our lives. NetGalley provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a candid review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy of The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik. I didn't know much about iconic photographer Dorothea Lange but was excited to read this historical fiction about her time in San Francisco in the 1920s but I was a little disappointed in this book. It seemed a little too fiction vs historical fiction for me and the authors note at the end helped solidify that for me. This book is mostly about Dorothea's friendship with Caroline Lee (known in the re Thanks to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy of The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik. I didn't know much about iconic photographer Dorothea Lange but was excited to read this historical fiction about her time in San Francisco in the 1920s but I was a little disappointed in this book. It seemed a little too fiction vs historical fiction for me and the authors note at the end helped solidify that for me. This book is mostly about Dorothea's friendship with Caroline Lee (known in the records as the Chinese girl) and while I appreciated how the author shared so much about the Chinese experience in 1920s knowing that this part was so fictional was hard for me. I liked how much she described the 1920s San Francisco art scene and the Bohemian vibes, but I wanted more on how her early career impacted more of her work in the 1930/1940s, which was briefly mentioned at end.

  29. 4 out of 5

    sylvie

    Review coming close to the publishing date. I highly recommend this book, its beautiful writing...a must read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael McGuire

    A total delight. I was hooked on Jasmin Darznik's "The Bohemians" from the moment the protagonist, photographer Dorothea Lange, caught her first glimpse of San Francisco Bay: "splendid and sparkling, the low angle of the sun catching it and setting it aglow." The book was my first introduction to Lange's life story and my first "trip" to San Francisco. Darznik's account of Lange's polio--"My crippled foot was the place I lived.... there was no world beyond it"--was heartbreaking. Her determinati A total delight. I was hooked on Jasmin Darznik's "The Bohemians" from the moment the protagonist, photographer Dorothea Lange, caught her first glimpse of San Francisco Bay: "splendid and sparkling, the low angle of the sun catching it and setting it aglow." The book was my first introduction to Lange's life story and my first "trip" to San Francisco. Darznik's account of Lange's polio--"My crippled foot was the place I lived.... there was no world beyond it"--was heartbreaking. Her determination to knock down that barrier and so many others is what drives the story. Though the novel is set a hundred years ago, it doesn't feel so distant. The Spanish Flu has just made its way to the West Coast. ("Half the time you couldn't bring yourself to think what it meant, and the other half you couldn't think of anything else.") A shameless politician is campaigning to "Keep California White." ("It was a time when nativism wasn't just tolerated or sanctioned; it was law.") Darznik firmly roots the book in its historical context; I learned a lot. There are smaller parts played by other historical figures, some well-known (like Ansel Adams and Maynard Dixon, Lange's husband) and others less so. There's an excursion to the Southwest ("with its scent of piñon, sage, clementine, and dried leather") and another, many years later, across the Atlantic (I won't say where). But the heart of the book is Lange's development as a photographer, her coming-of-age and the friendship she forms with, Caroline Lee, Lange's assistant (friend first), whose own work behind a Singer sewing machine rivals Lange's work behind the camera. Much of Lee's story is of the author's invention, but it is through Lee that the readers confront some of the harshest realities of the time. Because of Darznik's skillful character development, I came to care for both women quickly, and I rooted for them both until the very last page.

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