Late and Soon

Robert J. Hughes, Author
Robert J. Hughes, Author . Carroll & Graf $25 (328p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1588-6
Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-0-7867-1800-9
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A Sotheby's art specialist must arrange a career-making auction of 19th-century paintings, reconsider the loss of her marriage and negotiate the possibilities of new romance in Hughes's mannered, elegant debut. At an art opening one evening, Claire, 32, encounters Tobias, the man her ex-husband, Peter, left her for, and learns that that Peter has dumped Tobias, too. Claire can offer sympathy but not much attention: she has her own still-wounded heart to think about, and she's tied up in securing two paintings by James Tissot (a "first-rate second-tier artist") for her auction from Elizabeth Jane Driscoll, an octogenarian widow with undeserving heirs. To both women, the paintings bear the symbolic weight of memory and desire. Also in the picture is Peter's brother, Frank, a former priest who arrives in New York with a confused affection for Claire, and spunky Bernice Carton, who collects art by collecting husbands. Hughes, a Wall Street Journal reporter who's covered the auction market, depicts the meeting of art and commerce with an insider's keen eye, and it is this part of the book that fascinates most. Claire's emotional twists and turns, rendered in ornamental prose attuned to the slightest shift in feeling or nuance, are less novel but nevertheless affecting in this credible tale of longing and hope. (Nov.)

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