cover image The Curiosities

The Curiosities

Susan Gloss. Morrow, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-227036-8

Gloss’s memorable latest (after Vintage) takes place in an artists’ colony, bringing to life its residents’ challenges and achievements alike. Nell Parker, the new director of the colony in Madison, Wis., has been struggling with her husband after a lost pregnancy and failed attempts at fertility treatments. The directorship at Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony was won by Nell on the strength of her PhD in art history, but she’s uncertain about how she can help the three residents. They had already been chosen by Betsy Barrett, a wealthy philanthropist who recently died and left instructions that her mansion on the lake be used for the colony. Nell does her best to get acclimated with her new job while the artists focus on their projects, which are meant to be presented in a show at the end of their stay. They’re a mixed lot, with multimedia artist Paige Jewell attending college in Madison while she lives at the colony and Odin Sorenson, arriving from Minneapolis, creating large metal pieces in the garage. Annie Beck, the oldest of the three (who achieved fame in the 1970s for her political art and activism), lives in the basement working with photography. It takes a while for the story to settle in, but the personalities and descriptions of artistic processes are skillfully portrayed. Gloss’s novel is a transportive, satisfying portrait of an artists’ colony. (Feb.)