Ann Charney’s novels Distantly Related to Freud, Dobryd and Rousseau’s Garden were published in the US, Canada, France, Germany and Italy. She was born in Poland, studied at McGill University and the Sorbonne, and lives in Montreal. The government of France named her Officier de l’Ordre Arts et des Lettres.
Praise for Life Class:
“Charney writes in spare, tight prose, setting a brisk pace for a lively plot line and the introduction of intriguing characters...Life Class is an inspiring affirmation of life after loss.”
“Charney moves us from place to place with cinematic dash... Charney takes us into a community of expatriates in Venice, describes a marriage of convenience, details the sadness of post-industrial American towns and satirizes the pretensions of the art world.”
Cormorant CAN 2013
Life Class, Ann Charney’s beautiful and wry novel, portrays the allure and dangers of the expatriate life where its charms become traps.
Nerina, a refugee from Sarajevo, has her first brush with the sophisticated foreigners of Venice when she is struggling to survive by working in a hair salon and posing nude for a life class in drawing. Meanwhile, she is plotting to exchange her life at the margins for a better life in America.
Her gateway to the plush world is Helena who has lived in Venice for many years, cobbling together an existence by ferreting out people with skills useful to privileged expatriates. Through Helena, Nerina becomes a housekeeper for the Ohlstroms, a wealthy American couple. When they are called back to New York, Nerina finds herself sharing their house with one of their friends, Walter Scalin, a gay expat sliding toward homelessness.
Faced with destitution in Venice, Walter decides to return to the US to occupy the house in the Adirondacks he has inherited from his grandparents. He offers to marry Nerina and to take her with him, as her best hope for realizing her American dream.
From married life and a job as a cashier in Smiths Falls to work in Manhattan’s gallery scene is a quick leap for the nimble Nerina, thanks to Helena’s help once again.
Nerina doesn’t realize it but an impromptu trip to Montreal with her new love interest, a Canadian artist named Christophe who takes her to Montreal is a turning point, saving her from a rootless life at the edges. She has no illusions about the art world which rumbles with greed beneath the camouflage of glamor, but when she aimlessly wanders into Gallery Sarajevo, lured only by the name, her ambition for a gallery of her own crystallizes. Investment comes from a surprising source. Helena, Nernina and their friends serve as a life class in resourcefulness for a world in flux.