Eureka! I've struck book club gold!
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, my introduction to Dominic Smith's writing, has left me wanting to explore other works by this author and recommending this title for our book club.
The book travels back and forth from 1950s New York to Amsterdam three centuries prior, finally landing in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000. Similar to Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, Smith patiently reveals the story behind a mysterious painting and the web that connects three people over centuries and continents. I admire the way the story unfolds and, like a kitten chasing a string, I was compelled to keep reading.
I once read that a great book club discussion revolves around the "white space" in a novel, meaning everything the author has not said. This strikes me as true as I find myself seeking out people who have read a book I really enjoy, in hopes that they can answer some of my questions. In this case, "Was Marty happy in his marriage?" or "Why did Ellie agree to paint the forgery and did she subconsciously sabotage herself?" "Who stole the painting in the first place?" Mostly, I want to go back in time more than 400 years to ask questions of the fictitious artist.
Selecting books for book club is a painstaking process here. We take the job seriously and would love for everyone to be satisfied with the book selected, but some of the best discussions revolve around a book that was not universally liked. Although I don't think that will be the case with The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, a novel I hope to see catch on because it delivers on the implied promise I expect in every novel: a well-written, compelling story.
Smith does a superb job of letting events unfold over time and weaving the pieces together like a beautiful tapestry, but the white space he leaves behind is where the book blossomed for me. I really am perseverating on Smith's unanswered questions. Isn't that the true test of a good book? You cannot stop thinking about it long after you read the final page?
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop