Messenger by Michael Polowetzky 80’s?. The central character of this novel is a girl, Pascale Kedari, from a prominent Middle Eastern family, who finds herself cut off from her own country because of a sudden drastic political situation which prevents her return. Instead of enjoying a brief vacation in Paris, she will have to find a way to make a life there. Her dire situation is quickly ameliorated, as a succession of protectors comes along, each noting her almost other-worldly aura, to help her get started in life. Her artistic talent enraptures first Veronique Catellane, proprietress of a boarding house and former ballerina, who puts her up and virtually adopts her. Other mother/mentors such as Professor Matilde Eisenberg, duchess Raymonde Charpentier, and a small group of unconventional nuns are equally transported by her extraordinary talent.
Eventually she gains fame as she transforms a church by painting huge murals which manage to merge traditionally religious themes with contemporary social ills. Her project is compared to Giotto’s Arena Chapel and although she is modest and unassuming, she is up to this challenge. Michael clearly has a comprehensive understanding of art history and fascinating details concerning artists are well integrated into the text.
All of these mother figures want a part of Pascale. They constantly rename her, as though she belonged to them. She is variously called such names as Little Marie, Bunny Rabbit, Songbird, Emmanuelle, Little Giotto, and Divine Child. Rarely do they call her Pascale, which is a name freighted enough with Biblical reference. Veronique treats her like a doll; we rarely see her without “huge red bow in voluminous jet hair.” A characteristic of the style of this book is the omission of articles and possessive adjectives. I got used to it but never quite understood what it was for.
The title is a tip off that Pascale might have something in common with Joan of Arc.Like other figures in religious history with a divine aura, she is called on to sacrifice.What I liked best about the book were the glimpses of Paris by a writer who is well versed in art and archiatecture.