When Juliet Montague's husband disappears, so does she. As far as the conservative Jewish community in which she lives is concerned, she is invisible. She does her best to conform to their rules, but then on her thirtieth birthday she does something unexpected. Instead of the fridge she has scrimped for, she impulsively spends her savings on a portrait of herself. It is the first in a series of portraits that punctuate Juliet's adult life as she joins London's lively post-war art scene and proves to be an astute spotter of talent.
Yet she remains an outsider in both her worlds: a mother of two, drawn to a reclusive artist who never leaves Dorset, and unable to feel free until she has found her husband - a quest that leads her to California and a surprising discovery. Absorbing, intriguing and richly evocative, this is the tale of one woman's life and an unusual emotional journey, each stage hinged on a painting. It is a bravura performance by a highly talented young author.
©2013 Natasha Solomon (P)2013 Hodder & Stoughton
To my artist friends, I know that Solomons' words will blossom into images, primed by paintings named in chapter headings.
The story moves between quite distinct visual genres; including a detailed interior and portrait focus: a kaleidoscope of British Sixties happenings: Arts and Crafts in the deep woods: and a sparse Hopper-esque America. The plot itself is secondary, and toward the perfunctory.
I found myself quite caught up in the story of the not-entirely-sympathetic main character: a woman in an observant Jewish community in post-WWII London who becomes an art dealer -- and therefore is friends with artists from backgrounds very different from hers -- but is still part of her own community. I thought the author does an excellent job of maintaining and developing that tension, even as times change. Along the way, I learned about an aspect of English life I knew nothing about. Super narration: I could identify every character separately.
I loved Natasha Solomon's book, "The House At Tyneford", so I was excited to read this one.
That was a seriously bad move!
This book is nothing at all like "Tyneford", whose characters were well-written and the storyline was interesting and meaningful. In fact, it's SO different I'm wondering if it was written by a different author, but with the same name. The story meanders from nothing to nothing and goes nowhere. The characters are extremely one-dimensional and I didn't find much to like about any of them. The plot is virtually non-existent and I honestly couldn't find much point to this book. If you are not into art, especially portraits, you won't enjoy this book. Not that she spends a great deal of time describing painting techniques, but the story does revolve around portraits and the characters are mostly made up of either artists or people connected to the art world. There are too many incidental, irrelevant characters added to the story that just confuse things.
This is one of those books that I found myself constantly checking to see how much time was left because I was SO bored with it.
A word about the reader: her voice sounds familiar to me, as if I've heard her before under another name. I know that some narrators use more than one name so this doesn't surprise me. She does a well-enough job here, but the material really doesn't give her much to work with. Overall, her performance is head-and-shoulders above the story.
I'm so glad Audible now takes books back. I'm trading this one in. Don't waste your credit.
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