Friday, October 14, 2011
The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolfe
Random House Publishing Group,Hardcover , 336pp
The Very Picture of You is a pleasant and satisfying read. The main character, Ella Graham, is a well known portrait artist whose personal life is somewhat disordered. She is happy with her career, not so much with her romantic life. She is having tiffs with her mother about her biological father, who walked out on the family when she was only five. Her mother was a famous dancer, now remarried, who is still bitter about " the other woman" causing the breakup of the family. Ella loves her stepdad but is beginning to wonder about her father.
Ella has a half sister, Chloe, who has met a new man, Nate and is rebuilding her life after a doomed affair with a married man. Ella is very antagonistic towards Nate after overhearing something she shouldn't have but ends up having to paint his portrait after Chloe wins her services in a charity raffle. After she starts the work on the painting, Ella learns there is a great deal more to Nate than she originally saw.
Besides Nate, Ella is painting three other portraits. One is of an elderly woman named Iris, who has a painting in her house that leads to the telling of a poignant story that resonates with Ella. Another portrait is of a local politician who is going through an emotional crisis that changes his appearance and personality. There is a mystery about this man that may be tied to the hit and run death of a local woman. The third portrait is of a soon to be forty woman who is totally not into the idea of the portait her husband has comissioned. Initially she appears to be shallow and selfish-all surface and no substance.
Ms. Wolfe skillfully intoduces the four"sitters" and little by little gives us glimpses into their lives and personalities. Ella's interactions with the four leads to changes in her life and attitude. Just like in a picture, there are things that have happened and are happening that are not what they seem on the surface. Ella will need to delve deeper into her past in order to have a better future. There are characters in this story we may find unlikeable but we understand in the end why they acted as they did. Ms. Wolfe doesn't excuse bad behavior nor does she punish it. The characters have punished themselves when you really look at them and how they have lived their lives. This books has some parts that are a little formulaic but for the most part it is an interesting look at how people present themselves,how deep those outer layers can go and the work it takes for people to keep those layers intact.
RPL Note: This book is available in the Adult New Fiction Section