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The Road to Urbino Paperback – 13 Jun 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349138583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349138589
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.4 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roma Tearne arrived with her parents in Britain from Sri Lanka at the age of ten and trained as a painter, completing her MA at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. For nearly twenty years her work as a painter, installation artist, filmmaker and novelist has dealt with traces of history and memory in public and private spaces.

Roma's first novel, 'Mosquito', was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award. She is married with three children and lives in Oxford.

Product Description

Review

A finely-crafted novel of art, memory and migration (Lucy Scholes Independent)

Tearne's training as a painter shows in the subtle descriptions that fill each page with lyrical power, and the beautiful detail that provides a respite from the emotional desolation each character struggles with. This could be devastating, but in Tearne's skilled and sensitive hands the effect is softened, almost redemptive, making the novel a satisfying read (Anna Stopes Independent on Sunday)

Tearne charts the patterns of love and loss with beautiful prose (Francesca Angelini Sunday Times)

Beautifully written and observed, a richly woven plot. Roma Tearne leads us seamlessly between the intensity of art, love in a warm climate, and acute human suffering (Jon Snow, Newscaster, Channel 4 News)

Book Description

The brilliant new novel from the author of TV Book Club pick, Brixton Beach

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Reba Linden on 28 July 2012
Format: Paperback
The plot of The Road to Urbino keeps you reading, the ideas set you thinking, and the atmosphere stays with you. I found the characters sensitively drawn - no heroes nor villains, but real people with a strong physical presence. It's about colour and light and the power of painting, as much as about selfishness and love. The story of Sri Lanka is woven in, but the book is never polemical. Rather, it shows how history can meld with art in the life of an individual, and the meaning they - and you - can draw.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Nickel on 15 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
This novel is very different in story and style than Roma Tearne's earlier four novels, and it's exciting to see growth and change in a writer. What she did keep is her wonderful flair for painting word images, her concern for the victims of war, the use of art in healing pain, her explorations of memory, and the settings of Sri Lanka, England, and Italy.

The story follows two protagonists. The first is Ras, a middle aged immigrant from Sri Lanka, as he awaits trial in London for stealing The Flagellation, by Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca.

Through his first person narration, we hear about his early childhood in Sri Lanka, where his father disappeared one night and his mother died in a bomb blast. He and his brother spent most of the next years in a Tamil detention centre, until they had a chance to escape to England at the age of 19 and start a new life. Ras marries and has a child, Lola, and then divorces. He ends up working as gallery attendant at the National Gallery, where he is befriended by the charming and kind art curator, Charles.

The second protagonist is Alex, a friend of Charles. Through Alex, we get a fuller picture of the life of Charles and his wife Delia. They, and their circle of friends, spend a lot of fabulous summers in Italy, enjoying la dolce vita--art, food, company, etc. Being a Roma Tearne novel, some sad tragic events occur that change everything.

Everyone in this novel is consumed by an obsession, wherein we find the source of most of the conflict. But all the characters are also scared by war--even though the wars were thousands of miles away, or decades in the past.

It took me about 30 or 40 pages to warm up to it, but then I loved this novel. I actually wasn't ready for it to end, or to leave these characters lives (I especially liked Charles and Delia), which is really unusual for me with any book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 2 July 2012
Format: Paperback
"Last night I dreamed I was in Talaimannar again ...through the unlatched gate I went, followed by I know not whose footsteps, with the scent of lotus flowers all around me". So starts Roma Tearne's latest novel, with the opening lines sounding somewhat reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier's 'Rebecca', but in 'The Road to Urbino' the author has quite a different tale to tell. Lynton Rasanagium, known as Ras, a Sri Lankan exile, is being held in a British prison on a charge of terrorism, his crime being the theft of Piero Della Francesca's 'Flagellation' - one of the most exquisite and mysterious works of art ever painted and famously referred to as the 'Greatest Small Painting in the World'.

Elizabeth Saunders, Ras's barrister, visits Ras in his cell and in order to discover the events that led up to his surprising crime, she encourages him to relate the story of his life. In this way the reader learns about Ras's past; of how he grows up in Sri Lanka amid civil war and unrest; about his brother Sam's involvement with the Tamil Tigers; of their flight from their homeland; about Ras's marriage to a British woman once he is in England and of the love he holds for his daughter, Lola. As Ras continues his story, we discover how, through his interest in art, he becomes an attendant at the National Gallery and meets the rather amoral Alex Benson and, through Alex, the art historian, Charles Boyer and Charles's beautiful wife, Delia.

Running alongside the history of Ras's life, is the story of Alex Benson who becomes a witness for Rasa's defence and, in the attempt to gather as much information as possible to help her with the case, Elizabeth calls on Alex and persuades him to talk about his connection with Rasa.
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What is the significance of Urbino in this book? It is where the painting of the Flagellation by Piero Della Francesca is located. This painting is the centrepiece of the book in that the plot revolves around it. The story opens in Jaffna, the war-torn Northern province of Sri Lanka. Roma Tearne is originally from Sri Lanka, half-Tamil and half-Sinhalese. When she was ten years old her family was forced to emigrate to Britain because of the threat of racial violence. The suffering of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka is a recurring theme in her novels. The anti-hero of the book is Ras, a Tamil orphaned by the war and who, like Tearne herself, finds refuge in Britain. By presenting him as a flawed character she resists the temptation to glorify the Tamil `cause'.

One of the characters in the book, Lola, Ras's half-Tamil half-English daughter, makes the glib statement that `Western art is white elitist art'. Tearne's entire novel is devoted to the idea that the great works of the renaissance painters are able to speak to anyone who approaches with their eyes and mind open, i.e. those who are willing to walk the road to Urbino. This road is not an easy one, as Ras discovers when he makes a costly mistake. The novel ends with Lola just beginning her path on the long and hard road previously trod by her father.
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