Reminiscing with ease and familiarity one minute, with anger and menace the next, the painter eventually reveals why he has accepted the commission of this portrait, why he left London suddenly and mysteriously at the height of his success, and why now, with dark determination, he feels ready to return.
Set against the dramatic, untamed landscape of Brittany during one of the most explosive periods in art history, The Portrait is rich with atmosphere and suggestion, psychological complexity, and marvelous detail. It is a novel you will want to begin again immediately after turning the last chilling page, to read once more with a watchful eye and appreciate the hand of an ingenious storyteller at work.
©2005 Iain Pears; (P)2005 Penguin Audio and Books on Tape, Inc.
"Pears presents a classic unreliable narrator, although the degree of his unreliability is left tantalizingly ambiguous....For those who prefer the subtlety of a small canvas, where the perfidy of the human heart is revealed in shadow, Pears' portrait is an exquisite little gem." (Booklist)
This was interesting, but after a while, the monologue got a bit tedious. Nothing very shocking, but I did like the comparison of the artist painting a portrait of his friend as we get see the portrait of the artist through his narrative that went on and on and on ...
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
There are four reasons I believe this book is one of the worst I have ever read:
(1) The artist is the narrator of the book and he is tedious and aggravating. Part of this is because the entire book is a monologue filled with cant and cliche. Many of the trite phrases from the artist are little better than what one might hear during a drunken undergrad revel. Also, the unending opinions about Scotland and the Scottish people are ludicrous.
(2) Portrait painting is the passion of my life, so when I read a book that is ostensibly about a portrait painter, I expect the author to have done his research. Sadly, Pears does not seem to have any concept of what a working artist does. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but this book demands total suspension of intelligence.
(3) During all of the ranting and canting, the artist attempts to instill a sense of foreboding. Sadly we see what he's trying to pull from the beginning. There is no sense of suspense, only of failure to interest the reader in what happens next.
(4) Finally, we are supposed to believe that the sitter for this portrait is patient enough, and apparently stupid enough, to sit and listen to this garbage the whole time. Anyone with the character Pears attempts to give the sitter --- that of a strong-willed and powerful man with great intelligence --- would have walked out early on. But then Pears wouldn't have his captive audience to endure the painful contrivance.
I've never read anything else by Pears, so I cannot compare it to his popular series. I can only say that with this book as my only introduction to him, I have no reason to believe he would improve on further acquaintance.
It steadily improved and ended unexpectedly.
Not at first. In fact, I intially intended to return it but accidentally left it playing while I was cooking and noticed it was pulling me in with the story.
The painter, of course.
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