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The Portrait

By Iain Pears

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Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 04 July 2005
A dark and disturbing novel of suspense, set at the turn of the 20th century, by the bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost. The windswept isle of Houat, off the coast of Brittany, is no picturesque artists' colony. At the turn of the twentieth century, life is harsh and rustic. So why did Henry MacAlpine forsake London - where he had been fA ted by critics and gallery owners, his works exhibited alongside the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh - to make his home in this remote outpost? The truth begins to emerge when, four years into his exile, MacAlpine receives his first visitor. Influential art critic William Nasmyth has come to the island to sit for a portrait. Over the course of the sitting, the power balance between the two men shifts dramatically as the critic whose pen could anoint or destroy careers becomes a passive subject. And as the painter struggles to capture Nasmyth's true character on canvas, a story unfolds - one of betrayal, hypocrisy, forbidden love, suicide and ultimately murder. The Portrait is a darkly atmospheric, psychologically complex, macabre and chilling novel from a master storyteller.

Promotional Information

Key title A dark and disturbing novel of suspense, set at the turn of the 20th century, by the bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost. An Instance of the Fingerpost was a huge international bestseller which made Iain's name universally well known. An Instance of the Fingerpost has sold 140,000 copies in the UK. The Portrait is a tightly constructed, historical psychological suspense novel which will appeal directly to Iain Pears's large fan base. Beautifully packaged B-format original, with flaps and four-colour tip-ins. Widespread review coverage assured, backed up by an author tour. Competition: A.S Byatt (Possession), Ian McEwan (Amsterdam), Sarah Waters

About the Author

Iain Pears was born in 1955, educated at Wadham College, Oxford and won the Getty Scholarship to Yale University. He has worked as a journalist, an art historian and a television consultant. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Dream Of Scipio. He lives with his wife and son in Oxford.

Reviews

A London critic who has made the career of his curmudgeonly artist friend is suddenly in that friend's power while sitting for a portrait. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Praise for An Instance of the Fingerpost: 'This is a novel that combines the simple pleasures of Agatha Christie with the intellectual subtlety of Umberto Eco. It is a landmark in the genre' John Sutherland, Sunday Times 'Enthralling... An Instance of the Fingerpost is a brilliant achievement... wholly absorbing' T.J. Binyon, Evening Standard 'A slippery thriller of audacious ingenuity' Robert Minghall, Independent on Sunday Praise for The Dream of Scipio: 'Combining the visceral pleasures of a thriller with the more intellectual excitements of a novel of ideas...' Sunday Telegraph 'Combines dazzling erudition with assured narrative skills to offer glimpses of some of history's darkest corners' Independent on Sunday 'Vivid, admirably imagined, ultimately very moving... This is a novel of the very highest ambition... Immediate, sensuous, beautiful' Allan Massie, Scotsman

Justly praised for his complex historical thrillers (An Instance of the Fingerpost; The Dream of Scipio), Pears scales down to a simple tale of vengeance told by a narrator obsessed with destroying the man he once called his friend and mentor. Henry MacAlpine has abandoned his comfortable life as a celebrated portraitist in early 1900s London and fled to a tiny island off the coast of Brittany. To that lonely spot he lures William Naysmith, the British art world's most famous critic, with the promise of painting his portrait. In the course of the narrative, MacAlpine recalls the development of his artistic talent with the advice and praise of the ambitious Naysmith. The suspense lies in the gradual revelation of Naysmith's ruthless use of power, yet the double crime for which MacAlpine holds him accountable comes as little surprise. While this novel never approaches the sly cleverness and tingling suspense of John Lanchester's A Debt to Pleasure, which it otherwise resembles, readers will enjoy some period ironies, as when MacAlpine expresses contempt for the upstart French Impressionists, while the contemptible Naysmith discerns their true genius. Anybody in the business of criticism, whether it be artistic or literary, will be chastened by Pears's indictment of a critic's power to make or ruin reputations. Agent, Felicity Bryan. (Apr. 21) Forecast: The relative lack of plot may disappoint Pears's readership, but the subject matter will likely make the book popular fodder for reviewers. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

EAN: 9780007202775
ISBN: 0007202776
Publisher: HarperPerennial
Dimensions: 19.7 x 13 centimetres (0.26 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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1 review(s)
All Reviews
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1
Sarah-Jayne Fenwick on
 
This is a truly fascinating book, yet I am undecided on whether I either liked it or enjoyed it. It is constructed in the most bizarre fashion of the entire book being told in a conversation from the perspective of first person.
I would recommend this to read if you are interested in intellectual psychological thrillers (wasn't really that thrilling though). It was way too much thinking for me!
An interesting twist is featured at the end as well. Quite a "What the?...." ending.
Still I will give it 4 stars merely for its originality and perculiarity.

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