cover image Wilful Blue

Wilful Blue

Sonya Hartnett. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85718-0

Readers drawn to stories about suffering young artists will find torment aplenty in this woeful tale of a friendship cut short by suicide. Seven talented young men are commissioned to paint, sculpt and draw at Sanquedeet, a onetime monastery being converted into an artists' retreat outside Melbourne, Australia. It is here that Jesse and his new acquaintance, Guy, are assigned to do a life-size portrait of four renowned painters. Jesse makes friends easily with the other artists at Sanquedeet, but Guy remains isolated, ``nursing his scarred heart and his disappointment as vast as the world.'' Unfortunately Guy, who is fated to become a tragic hero, remains as vague as the language used to describe him: readers will find it difficult to emphathize with his emotional pain because its cause is never defined. Although Hartnett, an Australian making her American debut, offers intriguing ironies about artistry and immortality and convincingly relates Jesse's mixture of guilt and regret over his partner's untimely death, her heavy-handed approach mars the effectiveness of her writing. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)