Sunday, August 31, 2014
My friend knows I like art, so she was kind enough to lend me a copy of Susan Vreeland's "Girl in Hyacinth Blue"; it's a novel made up of associated short stories, connected by the common ownership of a lost painting by Johannes van der Meer or Vermeer. The series of stories regresses in time from the present: the son of a Nazi soldier who stole the painting from the home of Jewish people he had just delivered to the rail terminal for deportation. The father is now deceased and the son is anguished with guilt vs. his love for the painting. The next story is about the young Jewish girl whose father bought the painting for her; the family's anguish as Passover nears and pressure from the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam builds upon them. In the 19th Century, the painting reveals a marriage in crisis when the husband lets it slip that the girl in the painting reminds him of a still-burning affection for a long lost love. An amusing narration from a refugee of the French Revolution in next. The painting accompanies a "moses baby" during a flood in the early 1700's, with an account of witchcraft and horror. Finally, the story of the paintings creation. It's interesting to think of the possessions that survive us and passed from one generation to another. It was a good book.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Years ago, I read "The Horse You Rode in On" by this author; I liked it, though not enough to seek out other examples of her work. But when the Signet paperback edition from 2007 showed up in my local paperback exchange I picked it up. It's part of the author's series starring Richard Jury of New Scotland Yard; characters and situations alluded to in the book refer back to other books in the series without much explanation (which is annoying if you have read the previous books). It's a relatively "bloodless" British murder mystery--more like a puzzle. I guessed the killer relatively early, but not the correct motive; nor did I see the oblique little twist at the end. The writing is smart, witty and sleek. This is the second or third novel I've come across lately that refers to Henry James; likely I am destined to try one of his novels again in the near future. (James is one of those authors forced on high school and college undergrads in English class. Few young people are ready to tangle with Henry James, in my opinion.) The cover art by Alan Baker seemed right for the novel. If you like Elizabeth George's work, but have a shorter plane ride, this might be just the thing.