Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Very Unique Book

Can you remember ever reading a book that was written totally in the second person? Or even seeing such a book? Our book club choice for February was "The Portrait" by Iain Pears. The entire book of over 200 pages was a monologue with no chapter breaks in which the speaker carried on a prolonged conversation with another person, who had no direct speaking lines in the book. It was a mystery and it was fascinating.

The novel takes place on the tiny island of Houat off the northwestern coast of France. The speaker is an artist who has been commissioned to paint the portrait of a long-time friend of his, who is an English art critic.

It quickly becomes apparent that the narrator has a score to settle with the critic. Little by little the story develops the art critic's character and portrays him as a self-serving and despicable individual who has used others repeatedly to get ahead. All of this influences the portrait that is gradually being rendered. The descriptive language is beautiful as it paints verbal pictures of the art itself and so many scenes.

The stories of their mutual acquaintances Evelyn and Jacky are important to the plot.

There are unexpected twists and turns at the end that remind us of an Edgar Allen Poe story. The author leaves us and the main characters literally hanging on the edge of a cliff.

Go read The Portrait! It's a fast read that will make you think.


Blogger Kristin said...

I love books that make me think. I'll have to look into it. I think I pick the bookclub book next month. That might be an option.

12:40 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Hey Barbara!!! The closest thing I know to a narrative like that is John Galts speech in "Atlas Shrugged"... sounds vey interesting especially if it takes a Poe twist...
"Fortunado!!! The Amantillado!!!"

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

The only book I've ever read in second person was "Bright Lights, Big City." It was many years ago.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I looked for this on BOMC since I have so many credits with them but no luck; Amazon had a paperback for $10 plus so will go this weekend to Borders' and find it faster & cheaper than having it shipped.

Thanks for the recommendation.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

A literal Cliffhanger!
It is an unusual thing to write in 2nd person. I can't think of one now. Carol Shields?

8:03 AM  
Anonymous David said...

I concur - a great book. I had my doubts at first. How could an extended 200 page monologue captivate anyone? But, it works.

Kristin - it was a great book club discussion.

Kate - Arlington library had tons of copies.

6:38 PM  

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