Keeping the World Away

Margaret Forster, Author
Margaret Forster, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-345-49633-1
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007

An enigmatic painting by Gwen John created as the young English artist pined for her neglectful lover, Rodin, connects the disparate characters in this century-spanning sentimental tale. Forlorn Gwen paints a canvas of a corner of her Paris flat intended to "signify herself—calm, peaceful, content" and gives it to a friend, who misplaces it. So begins the painting's journey as it ends up in the possession of an artistically bankrupt teenager, an impoverished nurse, a downtrodden farmer, a scorned wife, an aging woman returning to Paris after a long absence and, finally, a promising art student, all of whom find either strength or solace in the valuable work. Though the men characters are less than convincing, Forster captures a wide swath of 20th-century European womanhood. (Aug.)

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