Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review - The Painter

Ten books into the year, the best book so far is now The Painter by Peter Heller (2014, Aldred A Knopf, 364 pages). I finished this back in mid-May but never got around to writing my usual brief post about it.

This is another book by an author I was not familiar with but picked up solely on the strength of an Amazon "best books of the month" recommendation. I realize that I am willingly falling into the trap of buying what Amazon tells me to buy, but with very few exceptions I have been very pleased with their choices and see no reason to stop.

The book is the story of Jim Stegner, a commercially successful expressionist painter with a troubled personal life and a violent streak. Stegner leaves the Santa Fe/Taos New Mexico art community for the solitude of the Colorado mountains. Things happen. More things happen, and Stegner finds himself being pulled back into the kind of behavior that he was trying to leave behind.

This is a story of love, violence, vengeance, family, and a whole lot of other stuff, woven in and around art, the outdoors and fishing. This was a beautifully written page turner of a novel, not in the sense that you weren't sure what was going to happen next, but more in the sense that you thought you knew what was probably going to happen next but needed to see it unfold. In that regard it was reminiscent of James Lee Burke, James Crumley, John D. MacDonald and those few other authors who could write that top-tier of literary suspense/thrillers.

"I had fished the Rio de los Pinos before. It's the little creek that runs through the gorge. How those little streams make such a big impression. I had driven the long washboarded dirt road down off the plateau and parked at a little bridge. I had walked up into the walled canyon. I had fished with a peregrine gliding the wall just over my head, and later with the sun slanting down and backlighting the biggest hatch of mayflies I had ever seen, the light coming through a candescent mist of wings, and I caught more fish in an hour than I ever had before. ... Some creeks you simply loved, and seeing the railroad sign with the craggy gorge reminded me that we can proceed in our lives just as easily from love to love as from loss to loss. A good thing to remember in the middle of the night when you're not sure how you will get through the next three breaths." [p. 165]

"...I walked over to the edge of the pinions and a jackrabbit shot from under a saltbush and zagged off into the false twilight. Most of us are never seen, not clearly, and when we are we likely jump and run. Because being seen can be followed by the crack of a shot or the twang of an arrow. I took a leak in the flinty dirt. I didn't know what any of us wanted." [p. 277]

5 stars out of 5. Loved it. Best book of the year so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment