The Empress of Tempera

Alex Dolan. Diversion, $14.99 trade paper (282p) ISBN 978-1-68230-297-2
Dolan’s intriguing sophomore effort (after The Euthanist) centers on a singular painting—The Empress Xiao Zhe Yi, Seated, produced by Chinese artist Qi Jianyu in 1980—and the extraordinary effect it has on viewers. One such viewer is Paire Anjou, a student at the Manhattan School of Art and Design, who was born Katie Novis, “a mousy girl from a family of criminals” in Maine. One day, as Paire is walking toward the Fern Gallery, where her guerilla-artist lover, Derek Rosewood, has an opening, she spots an old man standing in front of the gallery window, where The Empress is on display. Shortly after Paire picks up the glasses that the man has dropped, he fatally stabs himself. Paire becomes obsessed with the painting, the artist, and the wealthy and obnoxious Abel Kasson, who wants to possess the painting. Dolan probes the value and meaning of art while spinning the troubled backstories of Paire and Qi. Paire and Derek’s decision to steal The Empress sets the stage for a cataclysmic finale. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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