Saturday, February 10, 2007

Book Review: "The Portrait"

I guess I'm on a bit of an Iain Pears kick lately; it's just a week and a half since I reviewed Giotto's Hand, and now I've finished his most recent work, The Portrait. A vastly different animal, this book; hardly seems possible that the same hand could write such starkly contrasting narratives. Told entirely in monologue form (a portraitist speaking to his muted subject as he works) The Portrait is a deliciously creepy and nicely crafted tale of long-planned retribution for past transgressions. It is also a neat exposition of the artists' relationship with those who make their living being critical of others' creations.

While the monologue style is disconcerting at first (largely I suspect because we're unused to reading it) it didn't take long for it to become more gripping than annoying; it certainly pulled me in. While I wanted to read quickly to find out what would happen (though I confess I had the ending predicted well before the halfway mark), I also wanted to take it slowly and read Pears' elegant prose. He's captured human attitudes and frailties expertly here. I recommend this one.

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