Top critical review
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Enjoyable for the most part
on 3 January 2013
Like most other reviewers I downloaded this book with eager anticipation, having thoroughly enjoyed "Lillian's Story" by the same author. Once again Gardner has created a real page turner and her ability to evoke a sense of period and attention to historical detail is faultless.
However, whilst I really enjoyed the first half to three quarters of the book, I felt that there came a point where the plot went off the rails a bit. Previously likable characters became increasingly self centered and deceitful and what had been a believable yet gritty storyline descended into fantacism as it hurtled towards what I felt to be a rather disappointing ending.
My main criticism however, is the portrayal towards the end of the novel of a character who, we are led to believe, is on the autistic spectrum. Especially as this character's storyline develops and becomes more sinister, I feel the author has grossly misunderstood and misrepresented the condition. To be fair, she never clarifies what this person's difficulties are exactly, and maybe we are meant to disregard the earlier references to autism. Yet I did find the sudden leap from a child with a degree of special, but largely neglected needs, to an out-and-out baddie who deserves their comeuppance, more than a bit disturbing.
I loved "Lillian's Story" for its simplicity and lack of flashy plot, but felt that in Painting by Numbers Gardner has tried to pack in too much, meaning that for me, it fell somewhat short of my expectations.