There’s a lot going on in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am – an earthquake followed by a war in the Middle East; the death of a family patriarch; an unwanted bar mitzvah; a crumbling marriage. But through all this ‘busyness’, you quickly understand that Here I Am is Foer’s ode to family and his Jewish faith.
“Parents don’t have the luxury of being reasonable, not any more than a religious person does. What can make religious people and parents so utterly insufferable is also what makes religion and parenthood so utterly beautiful: the all-or-nothing wager. The faith.”
I’ve been wondering if ‘art-thriller’ is a genre… I’m thinking books such as What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and my latest read, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. Why does the art world make such a good backdrop for fiction? Perhaps because it involves creativity, big personalities, money, glamour, sacrifice and poverty? Or maybe I’m over-thinking it and creating tenuous links between these books…?
A rare painting, titled ‘At the Edge of the Wood’, provides the link between three separate places, times and characters in this tightly told cat-and-mouse story. The painting is by Sara de Vos, a Dutch artist of the Golden Age and the first woman to be accepted as a Master painter into the Guild. Fast forward to New York in the late fifties, when the painting hangs on millionaire Marty de Groot’s bedroom wall. Meanwhile, struggling Australian doctorate student, Ellie Shipley, is living in Brooklyn and making ends meet by doing art restoration work…and a forgery. Smith brings the story to the present day where, at an art exhibition in Sydney, the pasts of Sara, Marty and Ellie collide. Continue reading →