The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith

A fascinating book set in three time periods: 1630s in Holland, 1958 in New York, and 2000 in Sydney. The story divulges impeccable information on art and art forgery, provided in the context of a mystery of how an original painting and its forged copy come to be reunited. Thanks Amy for giving me this book.

The Piano Teacher – Eugene Strickland

Strickland is a well-known Alberta playwright, journalist, educator and occasional actor. The Piano Teacher is his first novel and it is a joy to read. The book is written as a series of journal entries by an accomplished pianist, to his niece (who has given him three journals), so it is a stream-of-consciousness recounting of meandering thoughts. There are some outrageous anti-technology rants, philosophical musings on artistic creativity, many reminiscences and so forth. There are laugh out loud moments and beautiful poignant parts. Overall, a great read, especially for music lovers.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine ThienThien has written some fine books (Dogs At The Perimeter, Certainty), but this new book is her best yet – an epic story of China. The evocative writing describes the agony of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s leading up to the horror of the Tiananmen Square massacre. There are three central characters that are linked by their passion for music.

The coda at the end of the book describes the first time a lost composition for violin and piano is played: “At first, the violin played alone, a series of notes that slowly widened. When the piano entered, I saw a man turning in measured elegant circles, I saw him looking for the centre that eluded him, this beautiful centre that promised an end to sorrow, the lightness of freedom. The piano stepped forward and the violin lifted, a man crossing a room and a girl weeping as she climbed a flight of steps; they played as if one sphere could merge into the other, as if they could arrive in time and be redeemed in a single overlapping moment. And even when the notes they played were the very same, the piano and violin were irrevocably apart, drawn by different lives and different times. Yet in their separateness, and in the quiet, they contained one another”.

This book has great story telling with some transcendent writing – highly recommended.

The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart

night stagesUrquhart writes exquisite books: The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, etc. This great new book is mainly set in the SW of Ireland (County Kerry) in the 1940-50s. The characters are vivid: two Irish brothers, an Englishwoman who eventually moves to Ireland, and a Canadian mural painter. A beautiful part of the book describes a prolonged fog delay in Gander Airport which allows detailed contemplation of a mural. There is much discussion about art and love, and even a bike race in the beauty of Ireland. This is one of my best reads of 2015.

Close To Hugh by Marina Endicott

This is a brilliant book about complex relationships of love and friendship. At the core is Hugh, a 50-something man whose life is unravelling for physical and psychological reasons. The story is set in Peterborough and art (painting, installations art, and especially theatre) features prominently. The writing is very fine throughout.