“Rachel says he suffers from a kind of blindness, that when he walks into a room he notices the windows instead of the people and the furniture”
The Last Painting of Sara De Vos ~ Dominic Smith
There’s a trend these days, or perhaps I’ve only just noticed it; of presenting several perspectives within a novel, usually separated by chapters. Anne Enright does it beautifully in The Green Road, so does Anthony Doerr in All the Light We Cannot See, while Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins just made me feel like he didn’t like any of his characters enough to dedicate the entire book to them. The point I’m driving at is that it can go both ways. When I reached the second chapter of The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, I literally had a moment of putting the book down (alright, my eReader down) and mumbling to myself “This is getting exhausting” (I paraphrase, but you get my gist). Not another book with too many characters to get attached to.
How wrong I was. Dominic Smith has been able to achieve the telling of the tale of a stolen painting through the eyes of three extraordinarily interesting characters – the owner of the painting, the forger and the artist herself. The swinging back and forth between decades, in fact centuries did not numb my brain and I sped through the book, panting for more.
I will admit that this is the genre I’m most attracted to. The book is nearly an ekphrasis of imaginary paintings, with beautiful descriptions of the art of the Dutch Golden Age. If I had one complaint it would be that I was mesmerised by the narrative which I assumed was based on painstaking research of the true life story of Sara De Vos, the first female member of the Guild of St. Luke’s in Holland, a guild I am aware Rembrandt and Vermeer were members of – only to discover later that the novel is more fabrication than truth and that broke my heart a little.
Why you should read it:
- If you’ve ever appreciated art
- For a peek into the intriguing world of art forgery and theft (the details are fascinating)
- For a serious theme disguised as an easy read
Why you shouldn’t read it:
- If you just don’t get why people spend millions on paintings to simply hide them away in vaults
- If you pictured ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ when you read the words Art-Theft
Note – I received a pre-published copy of the book from Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review