Thursday, November 17, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

Gabriella Graham is a portrait artist, one who prefers to paint her subjects in person rather than from a photograph. It allows her to get a sense of the real person behind their façades, to get their true essences. But for a woman who paints the inner person, she has a hard time getting past her first impressions, especially about some of the most important people in her life – the father who abandoned her and her mother when she was a toddler; the sister whose fragility seems precarious; the graceful mother whose core of steel hides some of the most important details of Ella’s life. Those she paints are also subject to her prejudices – the entitled trophy wife who tries to sabotage her own sittings, the politician with bonhomie who suddenly drops forty pounds, and especially her own sister’s fiancée Nate. Ella is sure Nate will break her sister’s already delicate heart, and despises him for it;  her open hostility threatens to ruin her portrait of him and her relationship with her sister. Until, that is, the day they finally clear the air, and Nate’s portrait starts to really take on a life of its own, revealing some hidden truths to which only Ella, ironically, remains oblivious. 
The Very Picture of You has a great sense of atmosphere within its romance and humour; there is nothing very sordid about the secrets the characters keep, nor wholly original about how the plot develops, but the writing is satisfying, the pace good and the characters well-drawn (no pun intended). For fans of the genre, The Very Picture of You falls somewhere between Carole Matthews’ and Olivia Goldsmith’s brand of chick lit.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on November 17th. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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