Play of Light

Thomas Philo, Author Mercury House $20.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-916515-62-1
Two fevered plots, running tandem but a century apart, focus on the art worlds of the French impressionists and today's L.A. museums. Philo ( Judgment by Fire ) allows us to see the impressionists through quotations from art books and a collection of letters by Vernais, a fictional protege of Pissaro and Degas; the L.A. art scene is viewed through the eyes of Jesse Kelton, a failed painter who works as a museum restorer, and of his friend Julien Marchat, great grandson of Vernais's arch-enemy. Philo sticks close to the facts in depicting the impressionists' problems with their contemporary critics, and he offers sketchy but reliable details of the art of restoration. Transitions between the two eras are smooth, and the parallels between the two stories (which come together in a mystery-novel resolution) are handled with a light touch. The plot and the overwrought emotions of its characters are, however, more discussed than narrated and are never real, following the conventions of the contemporary romance novel. The effect is of muddled cliches rather than original character development. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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