More Artful Readings

Time for more book reviews.  I am seriously shocked that I’ve finished three books so far this year, and it’s still January!  Of course, two of them were started last year, but still.   First up is The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber.  This was the selection for the Artful Readings book club I belong to for January.  As soon as I finished City of Bones, I picked this one up (plus I had like only a week before book club, so I figured I’d better!).  This book was so good.  It was a quick read (I did read it in a week) and it kept my interest throughout.  It’s an interesting way to present the story.  The narrator receives a recording that is sent to him and it’s the recording that tells the story.  Chaz Wilmot is a painter who determines he must share his story, and so he records it for his old friend.  The book deals with the question of what is real and what it not – whether it be art (is it a forgery, and does the viewer get less fulfillment in looking at it if it is?), or whether it be memory (if one piece of your life that you believe to be real is proven to be imagined, then what about everything else you thought you knew to be true?).  The other thing I loved about the book was that it was about a painter, and painting as an art.  The descriptions of painting are so evocative, that you almost feel as if you are there with Velasquez, brush in hand, smelling the turpentine.  I highly recommend this book, it was truly enjoyable!

After finishing Forgery of Venus, I decided to pick up one of the past Artful Readings selections that I hadn’t finished.  I was about halfway through The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet when I picked it back up.  The story of a Dutch clerk working for the Dutch East India Company in Dejima, Japan in 1799.  This book really starts of with a bang, but then the next few chapters following the first are a bit hard to muddle through.  By the middle of the book, it has picked back up again and I think it was at that point I began to really enjoy it.  The interactions between the Dutch and the Japanese are so interesting, as well as the interactions between Jacob and Miss Aibagawa.  I loved that he painted a fan for her as a token of his feelings.  And her story that is the main focus of the middle of the book is stunning.  The ending was lovely and made me feel especially glad that I had decided to pick this one up again to finish it. Portions of it reminded me of Peony in Love (also an Artful Readings selection) and portions of it reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale. Well worth a read. 

It feels good to have finished both of these, especially Thousand Autumns, because that was one that had been hanging around awhile unfinished.  And we all know that finishing things is part of cutting down on the crazy!

I’ve now started my next book for Artful Readings – Parrot & Olivier in America.  Book club isn’t until March, so I’m hopeful I’ll get this one done with plenty of time to spare!

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