Charnock (A Calculated Life) attempts a complicated multi-threaded structure in her second novel, but it fails to live up to its initial promise. In present-day Shanghai, 13-year-old Toni and her father, a copyist painter, meet with a client to decide which masterpiece Toni’s father will copy next. Both are struggling to heal from Toni’s mother’s sudden death. In 2113 London, aspiring art historian Toniah, second-generation daughter of a parthenogenetic family, attempts to settle into a job where she downplays the reputations of famous male painters. In 1469 Florence, the master painter Paolo Uccello (a real-world figure) tries to decide whether to marry off his 12-year-old daughter Antonia or to train her in painting and make her into a nun. Each thread centers on painting and art history, and each is told pleasantly and competently enough, but the threads fail to intersect or shed light on one another clearly enough for it to be obvious what they are doing in the same novel. Charnock’s breezy style and interesting historical tidbits don’t make up for the book’s overall lack of plot or dramatic tension. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/09/2015 Release date: 12/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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