(from Goodreads) Where the eye sees the brushstroke, the heart sees the truth.
From Isabel Wolff, the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair, comes a beguiling novel about artistic inspirations, family secrets, and the courage to turn one’s life into a masterpiece.
At thirty-five, Gabriella Graham—“Ella” to her family and friends—has already made a name for herself as a successful portrait artist in London. She can capture the essential truth in each of her subjects’ faces—a tilt of the chin, a glint in the eye—and immortalize it on canvas. This gift has earned Ella commissions from royals and regular folks alike.
But closer to home, Ella finds the truth more elusive. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and her mother has remained silent on the subject ever since. Ella’s sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American working in London, but Ella suspects that he may not be so committed. Then, at Chloe’s behest, Ella agrees to paint Nate’s portrait.
From session to session, Ella begins to see Nate in a different light, which gives rise to conflicted feelings. In fact, through the various people she paints—an elderly client reflecting on her life, another woman dreading the prospect of turning forty, a young cyclist (from a photograph) who met a tragic end—Ella realizes that there is so much more to a person’s life than what is seen on the surface, a notion made even clearer when an unexpected email arrives from the other side of the world. And as her portraits of Nate and the others progress, they begin to reveal less about their subjects than the artist herself.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Isabel Wolff’s vibrant and textured story, these words are brilliantly crafted to convey the humor, mystery, and beauty that exists within each of us.
This is the second book by Isabel Wolff I’ve read. The first was A Vintage Affair which I absolutely loved. I was so happy to find I loved this one just as much.
I’ve never really thought about having my portrait painted but after having read this it sounds like something I’d like to do. I always thought it must be a dull, tedious, drawn out affair. Now, I see it can be an enlightening experience and very interesting. Well, that it if every painter is like Ella. She is such a lovely character. The way in which she gets to know her “sitters” is on par to a psychiatrist. I never thought before of there being a difference about whether a portrait was from life or a photo but now it makes perfect sense. Ella won’t paint a portrait from a picture (though she does break her rule for a very good reason). Now, I want to pay attention and see if I can tell the difference.
I wasn’t sure what I felt about the love story until the very end and then a was very happy with the way everything turned out. Even if it was a little “easy” I was still very satisfied. I have to say was surprised by Ella’s mother’s back story. I can see now that it was all there in front of me and I just didn’t notice it. I was probably blinded by my soap opera idea of what the story was and therefore missed a lot of the clues.
All the characters were nicely fleshed out and the author has a such a wonderful ability to tell a deep and interesting life story of her older characters. When I heard Iris, one of Ella’s sitters, history I couldn’t help but think of the story of the little blue coat in A Vintage Affair. It was that story that really made me love that book.
I’m happy to say Isabel Wolff has seven other novels still left for me to read and I can’t wait to get to them. I have nothing but high hopes.
Thank you to Random House for my copy of The Very Picture of You.