cover image Painter of Silence

Painter of Silence

Georgina Harding. Bloomsbury, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-770-5

Harding’s well-crafted new novel (after The Spy Game) is the touching tale of a deaf mute, a young nurse, and a brief love overshadowed by WWII. In the early 1950s, Safta discovers a man slumped on the steps of the hospital where she works, in the Romanian town of Iasi. Though he cannot hear or speak, she remembers him from their childhood together: Safta and her family once lived on a grand estate in Poiana before the war, and this man, Tinu, was the son of the cook. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the two developed a deep friendship. In 1939, when Tinu and Safta are 16-years-old, an entrancing Romanian raised in France arrives at the manse and captures Safta’s heart. Throughout the summer, Tinu silently observes Safta and Andrei’s blossoming romance. But then war descends and changes everything. Now, reunited at the hospital, Safta and Tinu relive the past through Tinu’s totemic drawings of the people and places his quiet presence has graced. Harding effortlessly alternates between pre- and post-WWII, and her expert pacing lends a moving solemnity to the proceedings. Agent: Broo Doherty, Wade & Doherty Literary. (Sept.)