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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Review: The Girl in the Painting

Title: The Girl in the Painting
Author: Renita D'Silva
Publisher: 11th April 2019 by Bookouture
Pages: 495 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, India
My Rating: 4.5 crowns

Before she goes, there’s something she must do. She fingers the letter in her pocket. She thinks of the painting that was created beside the stream. A painting of a girl, with sadness in her eyes.
Emma’s beloved grandmother, Margaret, is dying, and she has one last wish before she says goodbye. When she gives Emma a mysterious painting and the deeds to a house in India, Emma is shocked. Margaret has rarely spoken of a link to India before – she has been unwilling to ever speak of her past at all.
But now Margaret has a request for her granddaughter: Find Archana. Margaret asks Emma to give Archana the painting and – most important of all – to tell her that she forgives her.
With her grandmother on her deathbed, Emma travels deep into the heart of the Indian hills in search of answers, to a crumbling house overgrown with vines. And when she finds Archana, the secret Margaret has been keeping for over seventy years will finally be revealed – the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever
My Thoughts

‘The girl in the painting … at first glance she looks happy. But her eyes, they are sad. She is young, but she has lived, suffered. And she is … what is that word I learned with you … oh yes, she’s conflicted, I think. Afraid to be happy, perhaps?’

I was excited to finally read a Renita D'Silva book and this one proved a wonderful introduction. Told in alternating time periods between three main character voices, it slowly unveils a beautiful story, one full of tragedy and grief.  How much is one bound by duty or to feel a sense of recompense when perhaps it only brings heartache? How far are you willing to go to forgive?

There is much to love about this tale. Firstly, the location in India is presented here in all its glory from sights and smells, to cuisine and culture, from Bombay and further afield in rural villages. There is a huge spotlight on the age old custom of ‘sati’ and as horrifying as it may seem to modern eyes, it’s the mental aspect pertaining to it that holds the real story and the author unravels this so well.  Secondly, the two main historic characters are outstanding - one Indian, one English - and both, individually and together, create a realistic portrayal of what life in times now passed. The impact of their respective upbringings, provides a clash of cultures in a truly illuminating way.

At times this book is a little slow and there is some repetition, particularly in the current day timeline. I found modern day Emma to be a rather weak but necessary link in providing the satisfactory closure at the end of this momentous tale. Overall this is a really well written story with the highlight being the two women in 1920s Bombay. The switch in voice is smooth and I found the historic tale to be more enticing which, thankfully, is where the majority of our time is spent. These characters are well developed and their individual stories will sit with you for some time afterwards.

The Girl In The Painting presents a compelling story made up of many parts - culture, family obligation, custom - all wrapped in the shroud of love and tragedy. This is a book I would most definitely recommend, particularly for those interested in Indo-British relations.

‘By not letting go of my past, being haunted by it, I have lost my present, maimed my future.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

1 comment:

Mystica said...

What a gorgeous cover. I was so disappointed to see that the book is archived now.