The Lost Diaries of Frans Hals

Michael Kernan, Author
Michael Kernan, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-312-10946-2
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 316 pages - 978-0-312-13117-3
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From present-day New York to 17th-century Holland, this imaginative, enthralling first novel conjoins the marginalized struggles of two creative, impoverished and sometimes desperate men separated by more than three centuries. The first is famous Dutch painter Frans Hals, known only through his surviving works and the town archives of Haarlem, which contain information pertaining to marriages, births, deaths and a number of legal disputes. The second is Peter Van Overloop, a perennial Columbia graduate student who is hired by a Manhattan art dealer to translate and help authenticate several recently discovered volumes of an apparent Hals diary. As Peter works on the project he quickly identifies with the tumult and uncertainty of the artist's life: Peter himself, rendered temporarily homeless by a fire in his apartment, shuttles from place to place as he delves deeper into the ever more intriguing chronicle. Growing fond of the diarist's wry humor, wisdom and resilience through continuing hardship, Peter worries, even as he verifies each date and name, that some inconsistency will prove this character he so admires to be a fraud. Kernan writes evocatively of both Peter's modern-day Manhattan and Hals's Holland from 1616 to 1664. The artist's voice as he comments on painting and events in his life (from his early 30s into his early 80s), wittily enumerating his own foibles along with the strengths and meannesses of those around him, is seamlessly crafted and captivating. Cleverly offset by Kernan's contemporary frame, these beautifully realized diaries brim with timeless insights on matters both lofty and mundane. Four-page color insert. ( June )
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