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Not what I expected
on 8 August 2013
This book wasn't really what I expected. I thought that as a reader we would be wondering who this man was who had turned up on the steps of a hospital. This was true initially, but we didn't make a discovery so much as the secret was, rather too quickly, revealed. It took away some of the mystery which I had expected to get from the book, and actually made it harder to get into than it could potentially have been. I was never at a point where I thought I would give up, but I wasn't very interested in it most of the way through, and tended to be doing other things when I would normally have been reading it. Consequently it took me quite a long time to finish.
It wasn't even exactly that it was a bad story. It just took a long time to get to a point in the story where I was interested. Generally speaking I found the background story the most interesting, but that story didn't really pick up until the war started, and more so after the war. In ways I found the most interesting parts were over a little quickly. One particular example is when Augustin is telling part of his story to Safta. It felt like a rather sketchy version of a story which would have interested me. It seemed like there could be a big story there, but because it was told through Augustin's pictures we only got the outline. The nature of the story didn't really make this needed. I can see wanting to take time to reveal the story. I can even see why Harding gave such a basic version. I just didn't like it!
The Painter of Silence was on the shortlist for The Woman's Prize for Fiction (formally The Orange Prize) last year, and I can see why. It has a style of writing which tends to be popular with literary prizes