Monday, January 12, 2015

Botticelli's Bastard by Stephen Maitland-Lewis

If your painting started talking to you, would you think you're crazy? Most people would. Giovanni Fabrizzi, on the other hand, is still sane. As sane as anyone can be when a talking painting comes into his life anyway.

Calling himself the Count, the painting insists that he's an unsigned word by the great Botticelli. He drives Giovanni crazy, exposing his wife's affair, causing his son to think he's insane and sending Giovanni on a trip round Europe to find out exactly who owns this painting. As he searches, he learns about the history of this painting and uncovers a family secret.

What I really like about the book is that although it introduces a lot of information about art history, it never feels like a textbook. Or at least, I never felt like I was being force-fed information. Plus, since it's about art in World War II, I found it pretty interesting and would have probably read a non-fiction book about it anyway. Having it in a story is like a bones.

As for characters, well, I liked Giovanni and the Count. Giovanni was a sympathetic protagonist, and the Count was amusing. Giovanni's son Mau was a nice, if unremarkable side character. But, I never actually understood his new wife Arabella. She has an affair with another man, and Giovanni is understandably angry, but the way they reconciled was... muted to say the least. Arabella seems to treat it more like a business than anything else.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book, and managed to finish it in a day. I thought it was interesting, and I enjoyed the magical talking portrait (who's reason for existence isn't really explained. The portrait isn't sure why he exists either, although he has a hypothesis, and there is no other signs of magic). Plus, I learnt something, assuming the history portrayed in this book was accurate.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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