It has a number of wonderful features but also a number of flaws. It’s the story about a psychiatrist (I happen to be married to a psychiatrist) who is also an artist. This psychiatrist has an fascinating artist/patient who refuses to speak to him. This patient is shrouded in mystery.
This book chronicles Dr.Andrew Marlow’s journey to discover the secrets behind his patient’s obstinate silence in order to help him recover. It leads to the patient’s ex-wife and her story, to the patient’s lover and her story, and finally to the story of a 19 Century Impressionist painter. The author moves us by chapter from points-of-view (with just one point-of-view violation) and from time periods–the relative present to the 1870’s during the time of Manet, Monet and the other French Impressionists in Paris.
It is full of art and the passion that drives great art. The author describes colors, movement and perspective like a true artist (I wonder if she is).
It isn’t a mystery because the reader has clearly figured out everything long before the end. I do not believe the author intended to write a mystery although she dishes out bits at a time. Indeed, there are no surprises and no twists and turns. It is a simple story told in a unique way.
Those are all the reasons I wanted to give this book 5 stars. Unfortunately here are the reason I had to drop two of those stars.
First, although the main character acknowledges he is violating psychiatric practice, he really goes way beyond what would be considered psychiatrically ethical.
Nor would he or she become involved with those family members or friends. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that the hurried way the patient suddenly responded left me in doubt. For this reason, although my husband is a great art lover and collector, I worry about recommending this book to him. If you are not a psychiatrist or if you can suspend disbelief, then, by all means, read this book.
Second, there is a lot of redundancy in the story. How many times and in how many ways do we need to know that Olivier is old? I really got very tired of hearing about his withered hand or lips or yellow teeth. Geez.
Third, the book could have ended much sooner. There were descriptions and backstory that were unnecessary to the story. I criticized Goldfinch for the same thing. This book is not as bad as Goldfinch but it still had me skimming a lot.
Fourth, the characters are so much alike, I had to remind myself whose story I was reading. Even the 19 Century character’s voice resonated with the two modern women.
Here’s an example:”Under his face she sees the younger man he must once have been and this young man gazes back at her as if through a mask…”
If you love art, can tolerate some redundancy, appreciate the history of art, and can ignore or don’t care about the abuses of psychiatry, then this book is for you.
If you like this review and want to read others, join me on my blog and get a sample of my next book, The e-Murderer.