‘Danny da Vinci- The Secret of the Mona Lisa’ by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley

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Genre: Picture Book

A new venture for me, reviewing a picture book (although I don’t know why it’s taken me so long…I collect picture books!) This is another in the Danny da Vinci series with Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley

 

Anyway, this is a new on from Harper Collins and another work by Rosie Smith, author of some well known kids books like ‘Can’t Jump’ and ‘My Dad’s the Coolest’, and famous illustrator Bruce Whatley, well known for the Wombat Dairy series and ‘Pete the Sheep’.

I was super excited to receive a copy of this one because I really don’t know a lot about The Mona Lisa and so I was hoping for a quick crash course on this masterpiece. Unfortunately, it’s not that, but rather a fun and made up story of how da Vinci found his very famous subject- a woman named Lisa who’s always moaning hahaha.

It is rather text heavy, so I wouldn’t recommend it too soon for the little one’s (like I was planning for my 2 year old nephew) but it’s a picture book so I’m sure they’ll happily look at the pictures.

A short and sweet review, just like all good picture books

Love,
Vanessa

‘Improbability of Love’ by Hannah Rothschild

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This book highlights the importance of a good title. In short, I hate this title. It sounds like a gushy Mills and Boons type book but romantic love plays a very small part of this book.

This book is set in London starts with an art auction house getting ready for the sale of the century, an art work that’s caused a worldwide sensation called the ‘Improbability of Love’ painted by Antoine Watteau (who is a real life artist but the actual painting is made up) I found this out after an embarrassingly long google search. You are introduced to the crème de la crème of art society and it’s a great opening. It shows you the glamourous side of the art world.

 It then backtracks to a few years earlier with the protagonist, a young woman called Annie, in a junk shop looking for a present and stumbles across this small, badly damaged painting. At the same time, Annie gets a job as a chef for a successful, yet highly secretive family run art house and soon unsuspectingly becomes a part of  into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian expats, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, who are all scheming to get their hands on her painting.

 

Rothschild, who has worked in the art world, chose her artist carefully. If she had chosen someone instantly recognisable like Picasso or Monet, it would have set a pretence for the type of people who are associated with those types of work. By using a virtually unknown artist, from the period of Old French Masters, Rothschild can manipulate and exaggerate the type of people who’d be interested in it. For example, there are two experts of Watteau, one an old recluse with yellow teeth and an obsessive nature and we have another, an obese woman who believes in all things French and decadent

 I had mixed feelings while I was book, it grabbed me straight away, dragged on, grabbed me again, dragged on but I did feel that the title doesn’t do it justice, we have changing settings, changing time periods, changing characters and even though that sounds hard to follow and it feels like the you know the end of the story in the first chapter, I still managed to be surprised by some of the twists. I’m surprised at how much I liked it, considering even the painting gets his own voice and I’m not a huge fan of anthropomorphisms

What I felt that this book added to the genre of art fiction is that it feels like a coffee read, something light, that’s the first impression (I actually bought this book in the morning before catching a plane in the afternoon) but actually lets you dig your teeth into the story, be carried away strangeness that art and master pieces can do to people.

This was nominated for the Bailey’s Prize in 2016

Love,
Vanessa

‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

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The story starts with its protagonist, Theo Decker, at age 13, living in New York with his mother. Theo’s father is out of the picture, which draws Theo close to his mother. On a visit to the Metropolitian Museum of Art, the pair are involved in a deadly attack that kills Theo’s mother and leaves Theo effectively abandoned, with nothing more than a painting he took from the museum that his mother loved.

The story then follows Theo’s life as he moves between a wealthy family living on Park Avenue to the desolate and reckless life he has with his father and girlfriend in Las Vegas and eventually back to New York.
Without giving away the whole story, we see how Theo’s life is inadvertently controlled by this secret painting and how it allows passions to grow, love to eventuate and obsession to control.

This was the first book I read when I started working at a bookstore and it is still one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was a literary sensation that was highly anticipated after Tartt’s successful novel ‘The Secret History’. The Goldfinch was 11 years in the making

There’s been mixed feelings of this book. A lot of critics thought it’s profoundness was fake and that it drags on, it’s a whooping 771pgs. However, it did win the Pultizer Prize in 2014 and does have some great themes and insights

Major themes:

-Obsession

-Friendship and family in all sense of the word

-Identity and the ability to change ourselves

The writing style I think is very mixed because the protagonist is aging as we read, going through the formative years of adolescence to adulthood the writing voice matures but because we need to understand to significance of the painting

It’s been described as Dickensian because of the way it highlights the underpinnings of class within America and how it represents the young and the old and cruelty and kindness

The mood of this book can sometime be downright depressing and it’s in these sections where a lot of people struggle to finish the book but it’s worth sticking with it because you see how Theo becomes everything and nothing all at once. To be complex and so human all at once…it’s very interesting. Why does Theo keep a thing (the painting) that is giving me so much burden? Because it’s the only connection he has with is mother

Once again, I’ve chosen a book set in New York and I have no problem with that because we get to see the wealth and the organic nature of the city in one hit

What does this book add to the genre of art fiction? It shows us a very literal way of how art can have an impact on us

‘The absurd does not liberate; it binds’ – Albert Camus

Highly recommended!
Love,
Vanessa