A CUP OF LIGHT

Nicole Mones, Author . Delacorte $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-31937-9

Mones's second novel, after Lost in Translation, twins a conventional romance with an unconventional and intriguing art world mystery. Lia Frank, a specialist in Chinese porcelain for a Sotheby's-like art dealer called Hastings, flies to Beijing to appraise a cache of some 20 porcelain pots secretly offered for sale by a Chinese developer, only to find that there are close to 800 pots of unsurpassed beauty. Given the value of the collection—some $190 million—Hastings fears fraud, and it is Lia's job to ensure that the collection is authentic and contains no fakes. Early in her search, Lia comes upon a replica of a late 15th-century Ming masterpiece, which makes her question the provenance of the entire collection. Meanwhile, Lia develops an interest in one of her neighbors, a research physician, though her stay may be too short for a relationship to bloom. Perhaps because it is convenient to the novel, Mones has made Lia a mnemonist, who has memorized not only every pot she has ever examined, but also every catalogue and history. (Readers of The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci will be familiar with feats of this sort.) This talent allows her to reconstruct significant events in the history of the collection. Though the mnemonic tricks are contrived, these passages are the novel's most arresting. Here the language is fresh (elsewhere it seems mechanical), and Mones slips easily into her characters' skins (elsewhere you feel her struggling). Still, she generates real suspense—moving cinematically from character to character and place to place—all the while deftly sketching the intricacies of Chinese porcelain and the world of imitators and smugglers that surround it. Major ad/promo. (Apr. 2)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-385-33187-6
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-385-31945-4
Open Ebook - 199 pages - 978-0-440-33398-2
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