It is not often a book we discuss gets universal high scores of 4 and 4.5 out of 5 but The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith is one. The book spans three different continents and timeframes and charts the collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the Golden Age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.
Discussions ranged from characters to writing style to the mention of Orange, art forgery and beached whales (see the links below). Comments from Pageturners included: I loved it, didn’t want it to be over, it is movie material, it was too convenient with all loose ends tied up, good read, it ended too soon, made the jump between timeframes smoothly, liked the descriptions of situations, he did a lot of research, well structured, Sara seemed so real, lots of big themes – loss, forgiveness, loneliness, deception, loyalty, he creates a powerful atmosphere, lots of parallels between Ellie and Sara, hard to like Marty and complex story but easy to read.
Here are some interesting snippets following our discussion about beached whales in paintings:
“Ironically it was Dürer’s interest in the animal world that led to his death. On a trip to the Netherlands in 1520, it is believed that he contracted malaria in the swamps of Zeeland when traveling to see a beached whale. He died in 1528 as a result of the disease.”
And more to the point, this article from The Guardian in 2014 may have provided some inspiration:
More about the Last Painting of Sara de Vos ABC Book Club Episode 24 May:
Read more about the author and his other works on the author’s website: http://www.dominicsmith.net/bio.php
The next book for discussion will be Freeing Peter by Peter, Andrew, Juris, Lois and Michael Greste on Wednesday 9th November at 5.30pm.