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This review is from: Painter of Silence (Hardcover)
Georgina Harding's latest novel 'Painter of Silence' is set in Romania; it is the early 1950s and a frail, almost skeletal young man is found collapsed on the steps of the city of Iasi's hospital. He has no papers on him and offers no information about himself - in fact he does not speak at all, and it is some days before it is realized that the man is a deaf mute. One of the nurses, a young woman named Safta, recognizes the mute patient but, for reasons of her own, does not want the other staff at the hospital to discover this. Safta, who knows the history of the young man, brings paper and drawing materials into the hospital so that they can communicate through the sketches they draw and, in this way, she hopes to encourage the man back to life with memories of their shared upbringing.
The young man's name is Augustus; he was the son of the cook at Poiana, a grand rural estate which was Safta's family home and the place where both of them were born six months apart. We read how, as a very small child "growing up beside him in the days even before she herself learned to speak, little Safta had come to know him with a quick intuition as if he was the silent side of her self." However, as Safta grows into a beautiful young woman keen to embrace all that life has to offer and becomes very attracted to a young visitor to Poiana, she moves away from Augustus and he becomes the silent onlooker to her sexual awakening. And when Safta leaves Poiana, Augustus stays on, living his life in the way he has always done, until World War II rages through Europe and Romania is left in ruins only to be followed by the Communist takeover. There are things that Augustus needs to tell Safta, but can they be conveyed through the medium of his pictures?
Georgina Harding describes the scenes and the characters of her story wonderfully and has a real skill in evoking a sense of time and place as she deftly weaves together people's histories, their memories and their longings. 'Painter of Silence' is an evocative, poignant and hauntingly beautiful novel written in a spare, but fluent and graceful prose that I found immersing and totally mesmerising. Highly recommended.