Publication Date: 13th May
Formats: Hardback & Ebook
Price: Hb £16.99/Ebook £9.99
Publisher: MacLehose Press
I would like to say a huge thank you to Milly Reid and to MacLehose Press for gifting me a copy of this intriguing and fascinating book. I am extremely grateful to all publicists and publishers in allowing little ol me to read and review up and coming books so thank you so much. Thank you also to Maylis de Kerangal for creating such a compelling and alluring novel on painting, I have no idea what magic has been used, but this story seeps with little golden nuggets of historical, both prehistoric and ancient which then mixes with growing up and trying to find out who you are in a fast paced and at times impatient world. Intrigued? let’s head to the blurb and find out a bit more on what the book is about.
Behind the ornate doors of 30, Rue du Metal in Brussels, twenty students begin their apprenticeship in the art of decorative painting – that art of tricksters and counterfeiters, where each knot in a plank of wood hides a secret and every vein in a slab of marble tells a story.
Among these students are Kate, Jonas and Paula Karst. Together, during a relentless year of study, they will learn the techniques of reproducing materials in paint, and the intensity of their experience – the long hours in the studio, the late nights, the conversations, arguments, parties, romances, will cement a friendship that lasts long after their formal studies end.
For Paula, her initiation into the art of trompe l’oeil will take her back through time, from her own childhood memories, to the ancient formations of the materials whose depiction she strives to master. And from the institute in Brussels where her studies begin, to her work on film sets of Cinecitta, and finally the prehistoric caves of Lascaux, her experiences will transcend art, gradually revealing something of her own inner world, and the secret, unreachable desires of her heart.
Wow…. just wow. This is one of those books, where I have so much to say about it, but when it comes to putting it down on my blog, it feels like there are no adequate words to describe it. It just is. This book left me reeling (in a good way) I felt I had immersed myself in a different, evocative, mesmeric world filled with gorgeous imagery and sights, sounds, touch and taste. This story drips with decadent and rich tastes in the art world, or the art of deceiving your eye, what you think is marble is actually painted wood and vice versa. But its not only about painting, it’s about how we learn to grow into ourselves and become more comfortable with who we are.
The main character, and kind of narrator is Paula Karst, who we see at first trying to find something that will energise her and make her feel she is doing something she loves to do, we see her try and fail at a few things, because while young you do tend to flail around until you latch on to that one thing that keeps you tethered and passionate in your life. We also see how Paula, sees herself and that at first she’s so anxious about how she appears to people (because of her “wandering eye”) and how she thinks she should be so good that everything comes to her, that when it gets really tough she becomes almost dependent on how she normally faces things….by running away and going back to her parents. But then she finds friendship with Jonas and Kate, and things suddenly become if not easier, more understandable and wonderful.
We follow them as they grow through their studies and then are let out into the big wide world, where their expectations of who and what they are, are morphed, changed and sculptured down paths they wouldn’t have thought they would end up. I fell in love with this book, and its narrative, the characters are vividly portrayed and also at times brutally too. Paula can be at times, sharp, stubborn, cruel, highly excitable, lazy, directionless, depressed and calm cool and collected. We see how as she grows up looks at what her parents are and feels at certain points comforted they haven’t changed but at the same time frustrated with them, we also see how cruel and sharp she can be with them.
I loved how she also looks at her paintings and sees the stories behind what she is trying to capture, that you are also brought in on those stories too, whether it be a turtle swimming in an ocean, to medieval princes of merchants, in Italy to all the way back into our prehistory, where humans painted the first pictures of animals and fishes that meant something to them, and which we today only can gasp in awe even if the message is lost to time, the pictures remain as something tangible, the past reaching out to us in the present time. All these themes and more are interweaved within this story. And yet there are some tragic aspects too, has she, Paula really gained much by being too focused on her work and not built up relationships and friendships along the way? and will she realise how important her family are to her before something horrific happens to shake her out of herself? I won’t go any further and spoil anything more, but this book has truly captivated me and I love it.
Ratings: 5 🌟s with a large ☕️ and a large 🍰…. this book needs to be savoured so take as long as you like 😊 it’s a joy.
Maylis de Kerangal was raised in Le Havre, she went on to study history and philosophy in Rouen and Paris. She worked at Paris-based Editions Gallimard (children and youth department, from 1991 to 1996), then travelled in the United States, and went back to her studies at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. She wrote her first novel in 2000, and from that moment on became a full-time writer. She has written some outstanding novels Birth of a Bridge, Mend the Living, The Cook and Painting Time.
I hope you have enjoyed this wonderful, intriguing and beautiful journey through wild landscapes of prehistory all the way to a paintbrush held by a young women with “a wayward eye” who feels alive when painting and depicting stories from her brush. If you are intrigued and want to grab a copy you can find this in Waterstones, any Independent shops (which I would highly recommend) and of course on Amazon. I will leave you now to say Happy Reading and see you all soon!!!!