Monday, June 30, 2014

That Summer by Lauren Willig

Another great summer read to add to the list!  This is a dual narrative, alternating between present day and 1849, weaving the story of Julia and Imogen.  Julia, after inheriting her great-aunt's house, finds a hidden painting.   This painting, and art in general, become a secondary character throughout the story.  Julia feels compelled to find out who painted the picture, why it was hidden and what was the inspiration behind it.  Imogen, living in a marriage that lacks intimacy and love, during a time when women had very few options, develops a relationship with an artist as he is painting her portrait.  The reader is swept along Julia's discoveries and Imogen's love affair.  This is beautifully written, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and just wonderful. 

From Booklist

When Julia inherits her great-aunt’s house in Herne Hill, outside London, it’s a good time for her to take a break from New York, where she has no work or romantic ties. Returning to England, however, brings up suppressed memories of her dead mother and childhood, and while sorting through the home’s myriad belongings, Julia uncovers a mysterious painting that not only played a significant role in her family’s story but also in art history. We learn that Julia’s ancestor, Imogen, came to Herne Hill as a young bride in 1849 and became trapped in a passionless, childless marriage. When her husband hires a young artist to paint her portrait, he and Julia have an ill-fated affair. Popular novelist Willig (The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, 2013) weaves together Julia’s and Imogen’s stories and further enriches the tale with details about the Pre-Raphaelite movement, gleaned from Julia’s involvement with Nicholas, an enigmatic antiques dealer. Willig’s latest is a smart blend of historical romance and contemporary self-discovery story. --Aleksandra Walker


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