Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Artists a feature of author's first novel

During the Second World War, London's National Gallery ran a Picture of the Month scheme, putting one masterpiece on public display each month to keep up morale and cultural interest during the city's dark years.

In the present, Claire and her Canadian husband, Rob, once so much in love, are drifting apart since the death of their unborn baby, six months earlier. When Rob's grandmother, Elizabeth dies in Canada, the couple receive a box of letters written to her by her cousin, Daisy who worked as a typist in Whitehall in 1942. Claire is fascinated by the correspondence, which describes Daisy's visits each month to see a painting at the National Gallery and she decides to follow in her footsteps, read a letter a month and search out each painting for herself. It's the only thing that makes her life bearable, for she blames Rob for their child's death. When he fails to turn up to meet her because of a business meeting, she is attacked by thugs and suffers a miscarriage without his support.

What Claire really wants is to be loved and although Rob does love her, she rejects him for letting her down, something he didn't do deliberately. She sets out to destroy him, instead of trying to move forwards, in fact she actually enjoys hurting him. After a while, Claire's attitude towards Rob and her constant introspection began to grate as I felt it had gone on for too long. He has also lost a child and now he is losing his wife. I wondered why Claire hadn't been having counselling to sort out her thoughts and feelings. I didn't feel that I wanted to root for her and instead, my sympathies lay with Rob, who displayed the patience of a saint. However, I did realise that without Claire's emotional inner turmoil, there would have been no story.

And the mood soon changes. She goes from despair to hope on seeing the paintings and learning how Daisy's life unfolds, in epistolary form. She can't help acknowledging the parallels between the two. When Claire meets art auctioneer, Dominic at the gallery and embarks on a monthly tryst with him, her life changes radically. She creates a fantasy life for herself in her obsession both for Dominic and Daisy's unfolding life in the letters and is soon in danger of losing everything that she cares about.

It's a well-written story, thought-provoking too, with some inventive twists and satisfactory closure - all ends happily. Through it, we learn something about the privations of war in England through Daisy's life and times. And if you like art history, the author has researched thoroughly and highlighted some wonderful paintings, with vivid descriptions and analyses, along with snippets about some of the artists, ranging from Titian to Renoir. You can actually view them if you scan the QR code at the start of each chapter with your Smart phone or download a free app if you have a BlackBerry or iPhone. You will be taken to each painting at the National Gallery, with information about the artists.

This is a worthy first novel for Camilla Macpherson, who is part-lawyer, part-author. She is a winner of the Promis Prize for short stories and has been shortlisted for several other writing awards. Her website is at:

'Pictures at an Exhibition' is published by  Arrow Books,2012.

1 comment:

Clare said...

I just wanted to add I enjoyed 'Pictures' although at times it seemed a little slow. Still, for a first novel, it was stellar and I loved the art details.