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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 October 2011
N.B. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ONE SPOILER.

The novel begins with Eve escaping from her widowed and alcoholic father in Cornwall to attend an art school in London. The first 180 pages or so (of 300) have no real plot development: Eve meets lots of new people (twelve in the first sixteen pages, all except one known only by their first name), which conveys well enough the experience of the first few days at college. We have a lot of description of studio life - mostly among a single-sex group of four young women. A male student emerges, as a significant character for Eve, around page 160; but he then disappears for well over a hundred pages. For the rest there is lots about Eve's response to colours and about various techniques that are pursued by her and her friends, and a lot of walking about London. I found none of this very interesting; and the style is flat, with very short sentences, its only colour being constant references to colour, and that becomes very tedious in the end.

As I said, around page 180 there is the first idea that the novel might actually have a plot, when the father, about leaving whom Eve has from time to time expressed some guilt, is found dead. This leads to some pages of real depth about Eve's grieving, and there are moments of sadness in her once she is back at work with her friends. But again, nothing much happens, except that at one point the girls go to an anti-war demonstration, and Eve is slipped something into a drink there which give her hallucinations - needless to say, again with lots of colours.

McEwen was herself at art colleges, and the novel feels intensely autobiographical, possibly even in regard to Eve's feelings about her father. If I am right in this, the events in the book must be very much more meaningful and interesting to her than, regrettably, it is to me.
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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