A good book has no ending. ~ R.D. Cumming

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Underpainter

The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart

Austin Taylor is an aspiring artist. During the early 1900's, following the death of his mother, Austin's father strikes it rich after investing in Silver and begins what would become the annual trips to the Northern shores of Lake Superior in Canada. It is during these summers spent in Canada that Austin crosses the path of George, a porcelain painter and owner of the China Hall shop, and Sara, his soon-to-be mistress and muse. Now an old man, Austin looks back on his life and the summers spent up North with a tinge of regret. As an artist, Austin had been encouraged to distance himself from his emotions in order to paint better but in doing so, Austin managed to build a wall around himself shutting out the warmth, love and friendship his companions had to offer. In hindsight, Austin realizes that his connections with George and Sara were shallow and weak and the way things ended between each of them was far from desirable.

Right off the bat I can tell you that this story would most likely hold more for a reader who is able to discern the hidden meaning in writing - this, sadly, is not a strength of mine (I prefer to read a story with a more obvious message) and so I feel that I may have missed out on some of the subtleties that are no doubt lying within the text. There is much reference made to Austin's work as a painter, and especially in his style of underpainting - which I'm sure alludes to something else key in the story. Overall I thought the story was good; tragic, though, in the sense that Austin couldn't see how much he was shutting out everyone around him until it was too late. I probably wouldn't recommend this novel due to the fact that I, personally, don't enjoy novels like this (hidden meanings, etc); however, if I knew someone who did enjoy that sort of writing style, I would recommend this novel to them.

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