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on 20 November 2013
Rated the book 3.5 in fact and the film 2.5.
The former is a decent enough read on a train journey or if you are bothered about the (alleged) antics of a group of semi-bohemians living a lifestyle they were deluded enough to think resembled that of the Barbizons in France when they were actually near Newlyn. The style is somewhat tedious while working hard to establish that the events portrayed were anything other than petty personal opinion and tragedy of a small event in a moment in time of a passing whimsical cluster of not too talented painters. I am not so certain that what Smith portrays is much more than extrapolated guess work in many instances, some of which works and some of which doesn't. Nevertheless he takes a basic core of facts and scaffolds a passable tale round it to provide enough satisfaction from what is a light read. Any lady who drinks a cyanide concoction on her honeymoon is either entirely potty or eminently sane. Repeating the process - the second time to a fatal outcome - confirms one of the two cases but really this is not dealt with adequately enough although it is the hub of the tale. There's the pity.

The film, of which the author wrote the screenplay, lacked the vitality of being 'en plein air' and again, although passing the time (100 minutes), could hardly be registered as a classic.

The nagging disappointment is that the film and the book could have been wonderful - but like the Lamorna coves they never quite make it.
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on 25 July 2013
I bought this book because I am interested in Sir Alfred Munnings who painted a picture of the place where I live. I have read the three unabridged volumes of his autobiography. I enjoyed them being a lover of horses, the countryside and paintings. I read on an internet site that he had had a first wife who committed suicide and was curious as Munnings does not mention this in his autobiography.

Because of the publicity re the recent film made from the book Summer in February I was keen to read the book and see the film.

I would recommend this book. I thought it was well written and it is a very gripping story, with the addition of being set in beautiful Cornwall. Unlike some faction novels, I felt that the author stuck to the facts he actually had evidence of and portrayed the characters well, all of whom were real people. In this book you learn about the Lamorna group of artists, partiularly Harold and Laura Knight which I found fascinating. Also many incidents portrayed in the book were also in Munnings' autobiography. Munnings was a hard swearing, hard drinking man who loved to be the centre of attention and entertain his friends with recitals of poetry, including some of his own. He liked painting gypsies and seemed a bit of a gypsy himself, moving around from place to place, often at short notice. However he worked hard at his art, working outdoors in all weathers. Florence remains an enigmatic character and it is difficult to understand why she ever agreed to marry Munnings, let alone went through with it. It is a sad story for all concerned but I still felt a bit of sympathy for Munnings in the situation, although far more for Gilbert Evans. As for Florence, I am not sure if she was a victim or a bit of a minx. Florence's brother asks Evans what he thinks of his sister. He says "extraordinary" and the brother replies "but not extraordinarily odd?".
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on 12 July 2013
As I live in Cornwall and am also very interested in the history of Art I wanted to read this book before I eventually see the film. I find this always improves the cinema experience as films cannot include every small part that a book contains. I found this to be true when I read The Da Vinci Code and more recently The Help before seeing the films. This book did not disappoint me at all, it was a fascinating insight into the lives of artists whose work is still very popular to-day but also the lives of others who lived in the glorious Lamorna Cove at the turn of the last century. I found it a real page turner!
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on 17 July 2013
Information on the film of the book tempted me to buy it and I love the cover illustration. I have always held Munnings in regard and was interested in seeing what the novel had to say about him - not quite what I expected! I like the way the characters have been drawn and how the story flows. Nice descriptions, I can imagine I am there. I've been to Mousehole but not to Lamorna and it is now on my list of things to do. I would recommend reading this novel despite it being about Munnings as the other characters are interesting.
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on 27 March 2015
Getting into the book I did realise what it was going to be about from Barbara Morden's book on Laura Knight - see elsewhere on my Profile page. I thought it charmingly told but only one incident in lives of busy & successful painters. I'd try another Jonathan Smith just to confirm I enjoyed his book. I'd still read further on Munnings although he was portrayed accurately.
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on 7 October 2013
Living in Cornwall, I was really looking forward to this book which was our summer book club choice. In the event, I found it patchy. Loved the start with his speech in the Academy, but found the treatment of women to be more two dimensional... Was keen to find out more about the Newlyn School of Painting and tried to google artists and paintings mentioned in the book. This turned out to be a mistake as I clicked onto websites which gave away rather more of the plot than was necessary - I also kept finding images of the actors from the recent film and found this jarred with my own impressions... Maybe would have been better to look up paintings after reading the book.
All in all an ok read but nothing that has stayed with me - in fact until I saw the request for feedback I'd forgotten I'd even read it...
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on 25 November 2013
I knew nothing about AJ Munnings or the Newlyn group and I found the approach engaging and informative. All the main characters were really brought to life for me and prompted me to find out more. I think the book worked on two different levels - as a heart-breaking love story - and an observation on the destructive nature of love, - and as a biography of the early life of Munnings. Smith was also able to conjure up a real sense of place and time - his characterisations of even the more minor players were well drawn and even though there was an increasing sense of impending doom as the story developed, I kept wanting to return to it. It felt a bit like watching a fragile moth being attracted to the light. I would highly recommend.
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on 20 April 2014
If you like the work of the Newlyn School, this is the charming story of some of the group of painters based in Lamorna. The love story is concerned with Alfred Munnings, but the whole scene of the artists' lives is evocatively portrayed. I read the book before seeing the film, which obviously gave me the pictures.
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on 14 July 2013
Whilst this is a perfectly acceptable read (it is at least well written) I felt that it also highlighted the distinction between hype and reality. Much said and much related to the forthcoming film, but much inflated too. It is true, of course, that all publishers hype their products; for that matter so do all sellers of just about anything, but the result of being told that a book is so very good means that the buyer can only buy it to read it all and find that it's --- OK. Not the best book out. If anyone has an answer to the over-hype problem that avoids having to fork out for it to find the truth I'd be happy to hear it. It's amusing that I have also been asked to review a book that hasn't yet been published! Is there a sinister clue in there?
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on 2 August 2013
I haven't seen the film yet but wanted to read the story of the famous artist Munnings and his friends in Cornwall in the early 1900's before WW1. The story is slow and I enjoyed how polite people are to each other but Munnings was someone who used people for his own advantage.
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