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The Perfect Landscape [Paperback]

Ragna Siguršardóttir , Sarah Bowen
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Oct 2012

When a wealthy patron donates a valuable landscape painting to Reykjavik’s art museum, the staff can hardly believe its luck. It was painted by one of Iceland’s most beloved artists, and the acquisition is sure to elevate the museum’s already sterling reputation.

For Hanna, a newly arrived art theorist, the acquisition is a chance to begin her job on a high note; after all, she’s something of an expert on the artist. But when the museum’s conservator suggests the painting might be a fake, Hanna realizes the museum’s reputation is not the only one in danger of crumbling.

And so she sets out to authenticate the painting, drawing on every ounce of skill that she possesses. What Hanna doesn’t know she vows to learn, venturing deep into the shadowy world of art forgery. Only then will she be able to strip away the varnish of the past to uncover the truth.

Nominated for the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (16 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612184316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612184319
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.5 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Ragna Sigurdardottir is a native of Reykjavik, Iceland, and the author of five novels. She studied French and fine arts in Aix-en-Provence before attending the Icelandic School for Arts and Crafts. After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands, she worked as an artist and writer in Rotterdam and later in Denmark. She eventually returned home to Iceland, where she spent a decade working as an art critic for Icelandic newspapers. Currently she studies art theory at the University of Iceland and is writing her sixth novel. She lives with her husband and their two daughters on the outskirts of Reykjavik, just down the street from the North Atlantic Ocean.


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"The Perfect Landscape" comes to us from the faraway, unfamiliar - to most of us-- shores of Iceland. It is the fifth novel produced by Ragna Sigurdardottir, a native of Reykjavik, Iceland, where it is set, and, at 210 pages, is really just novella length. It has been translated by Sarah Bowen. It's set in Iceland's art world, and is a mystery, of sorts, though not a murder mystery: rather it deals with the subject of art forgery.

Hanna, a native of Iceland, though not of its capital city Reykjavik, has just joyfully returned from a long stint of work and study abroad: she's an art historian/theorist: she has gotten herself a job at a small local museum. Of course, she misses her Italian husband Federico and Heba, her daughter by him. But, coincidentally with her return, a wealthy patron of the museum donates to it a valuable landscape painting, done by one of the country's most popular artists. So Hanna begins her new job on a high: she and the rest of the museum's staff believe that the acquisition will elevate its profile. However, when the museum's knowledgeable conservator suggests the painting might be a fraud, Hanna realizes her reputation is as much on the line over the painting as is the museum's.

Sigurdardottir studied French and fine arts in Aix-en-Provence, France, before attending the Icelandic School for Arts and Crafts. After she earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands, she worked as an artist and writer in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and Denmark. She eventually returned home, where she spent a decade working as an art critic for Icelandic newspapers. She now is studying art theory at the University of Iceland and writing her sixth novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable 4 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Slightly disappointed with this book - I've been to Iceland and thought a book set there would be interesting. It was ok but didn't really make much of the Icelandic setting which I though a pity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult read 3 July 2013
By Betty
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found it quite difficult because of names and also there was a great deal about art which I did not really understand
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landscape in Words 1 Nov 2012
By Tom Killalea - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Perfect Landscape is a very easy and rewarding read from Icelandic author, Ragna Siguršardóttir. It's beautifully translated by Sarah Bowen. Descriptions, of people, of Iceland, and of work in an art gallery are crisp and convey just enough detail. The characters are well-drawn and realistic, and it's easy to build empathy with the leading character, Hanna. I like the pace, unhurried yet engaging.

The setting and the context for the book are unusual. This is a work of fiction centered on fine art, but it is very far removed from the world of thrillers that might involve some sort of a smash-and-grab heist. It's a book of great subtlety. The characters draw you in even though your view of them is carefully limited and constrained. The author is not hurried and yet is not long-winded in revealing the plot.

Through Hanna's eyes, we learn the techniques used to verify the authenticity of a painting. This feels very naturally done, as though the author is just layering this detail on her canvas. You'll be disappointed if you were expecting an episode in crime scene forensics.

In many ways, the book resembles a beautiful oil painting. We get a glimpse of some interesting characters. The writer gives us a frame within which to view them, and we see interactions between them, but inevitably, as with any slice of life, we can't tell what happens afterwards. How does Kari's story evolve? Does Hanna see him again? What of the various relationships in the book? I think the book is so much better for not attempting to show resolution and conclude with 'happily ever after'. It gives us a frame of life and leaves us with much to think about.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What ever happened to art for art's sake? 18 Oct 2012
By A. B. King - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is an overlap of two emerging genres: Icelandic mysteries and art forgery mysteries. In other art forgery mysteries I am familiar with the real artists, so I can sort out the fictional artists who are the plot. In this book, in my ignorance of Icelandic fine art, I don't know which are real and which are fictitious. You would think that it would not matter, but somehow it does. In A Dangerous Talent (An Alix London Mystery) I knew who Georgia O'Keefe was, and it really did help with the plot. And I want to read more Alix London mysteries.
The politics of being a small country in the world of art makes a lot of the intrigue. I enjoyed those insights. However the lead character was not compelling. The story was okay. This was not my favorite Icelandic mystery. For serious reading, I suggest The Flatey Enigma. For an absolutely hysterical introduction to Iceland, read The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The fine art of forgery 11 Sep 2012
By Patto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The setting is Reykjavik. The protagonist is Hanna, who is just starting a job in a city art gallery. She at once has the idea of putting on an exhibition of contemporary Icelandic artists inspired by landscape. The gallery already possesses a perfect landscape by a famous Icelandic artist of the last century.

There are many currents running through the plot - the office politics in the gallery; Hanna's marital troubles with an unfaithful Italian husband; Hanna's attraction to Steinn, the colleague in charge of conservation; Hanna's compassion for the wild young graffitists who are defacing the city's public art; but most of all, the threat of art forgeries, in this small gallery and in the art world at large.

We get a picture of how forged paintings creep into the market. We learn something of the techniques of imparting age to a new work.

In the snooty art world, Hanna doesn't quite fit in. She has too much integrity, too little guile. She practices fencing for exercise, and the vocabulary of fencing strategy is constantly in her mind as she metaphorically fences with her snobbish boss and ambitious co-workers.

This novel clearly aims to be literary rather than than sensational, despite the scandalous subject of art forgery and the goings-on of unscrupulous Russians in the background. In a way the book felt more like a painting to me than a novel - all color and light, emotion and innuendo, glancing brush strokes. Some readers will like this. I read The Perfect Landscape with mild interest but not much excitement.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quietly compelling character driven mystery 11 Dec 2012
By Jaylia3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There isn't a lot of dramatic action in this Nordic mystery; its pleasures are more subtle and character driven. The book opens in Iceland, where Hanna, an art theorist, is beginning a new job at a small but prestigious art museum and hoping for a fresh start in her home country. She's currently separated from her daughter and somewhat estranged from her Italian husband of 20 years, so Hanna looks forward to throwing herself into what she believes will be a cushy and interesting job. Once she arrives however, she realizes that the job isn't what she thought and its internal politics are tricky enough that she has to be on guard much of the time. A lot of the book's activity takes place inside Hanna's head, where she uses her knowledge of fencing strategies and stances to prepare herself to parley effectively with the people around her.

Since Hanna's area of expertise is landscape paintings, she's thrilled that the museum has acquired a beautiful landscape by a much beloved early twentieth century Icelandic artist, but when she and a male colleague she has complicated feelings for begin to suspect it's a forgery they launch a covert investigation that involves collectors, dealers and artists from across northern Europe. Though not gripping in an edge-of-the-seat kind of way, The Perfect Landscape is quietly compelling and I kept coming back to it for the joy of making discoveries along with Hanna.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the fence. 12 May 2013
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our main character, Hanna, has a new job at a museum in Reykjavik. A supposedly very valuable painting has been donated by a friend of one of the honchos. It's up to Hanna to verify that the painting is an original.

In the meantime, the reader is given an array of characters to get to know and to wonder about their loyalties. Then there is the vandalism. Of course, all is interrelated to one degree or another. Not surprisingly, there is one character in particular that demands closer inspection. It takes fewer than a dozen pages to get that figured out.

Quite apropos of nothing is Hanna's fencing ability. What she seems to use it most for is drawing comparisons between it and the situations and people she encounters. Hanna's style in that sport must be one that doesn't require much offense.

I didn't find much in the book to feel one way or the other about. If you are really into the ever popular group of Icelandic and art forgery books, then you'll want to lunge for this one. If not, then be en garde.
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