Greenwich Village, 1959. Claire Bishop sits for a portrait - a gift from her husband - only to discover that what the artist has actually depicted is Claire's suicide. Haunted by the painting, Claire is forced to redefine herself within a failing marriage and a family history of madness. Shifting ahead to 2004, we meet West, a young schizophrenic obsessed with a painting he encounters in a gallery: a mysterious image of a woman's suicide. Convinced it was painted by his ex-girlfriend, West constructs an elaborate delusion involving time travel, Hasidism, art theft, and the terrifying power of representation. When the two characters finally meet, delusions are shattered, and lives are forever changed.
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Don't let the title scare you off
I love non-fiction for its anchored logic and reason and from time to time I'll jump onto a book that I find that will challenge me. It's like a college class that you loved because you felt something, but when trying to articulate what you liked, all you can say is, "You just have to take it to understand." Then someone does and you have this understanding between you, but still can't put it into words.
If this was a film, I would definitely start with the line "This painter I know thinks I want to jump off a bridge."
Definitely when West starting talking physics and seeing just how much of a polymath this author was, so nice to see physics woven into a literary work. I can't help but think of Poe, not just the loneliness of his "The Man of the Crowd" but also that Poe solved Olber's Paradox in his book Eureka, emotion, loneliness, intuitive science were a draw for me.
I felt more comfortable with West, I listened to him first skipping to those chapters that Will Damron narrated, then went back to the beginning to hear Claire's story from Carol Monda. If you try to solve a non-linear puzzle linearly, you'll be hopelessly lost.
I saw some DNF comments on Goodreads who quit on this book early and to those I would say to start with West, then come back to Claire.
- nonfiction reader