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An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay

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Synopsis (from amazon.co.uk):

Jennet Mallow is born in Yorkshire in the 1920s but her interest in art and creativity alienates her from her family, her father who is a priest, her conventional sister and her emotionally stunted mother. Jennet moves to London in search of a more exciting life and finds it in her new environment and in the handsome and enigmatic figure of the painter David Heaton. When Jennet falls pregnant, her parents more or less force the two to marry. In the post-war austerity of the 1940s, the young couple struggles to make ends meet and Jennet finds that her home life is gradually eroding everything she has fought to achieve. Aware that David is becoming increasingly reliant on drink and tired of the dank and drab bed-sit in which they live, Jennet suggests they move to Spain. There, the bright blue skies, warm air and sunlit beaches give the couple and their children a new lease of life. Jennet begins to paint again and an agent takes an interest in her work. But as Jennet's own career begins to take off, her relationship with David sours and the two enter a destructive spiral with tragic consequences.



This novel is written as a fictionalised biography of the artist Jennet Marrow. You know at the beginning it's written by someone close to her, probably one of her children, but you're not sure who. It follows her life from birth to death, concentrating on her relationships and her development as an artist, and how her life affected her art.


I'm in two minds about this book. The descriptions of an artist at work and the analysis of her art are wonderful, and it truly brings imagined artworks to life, the colours, textures and light are evocative and shine brightly on the page. And, in fact, it was only in the last 30 or so pages, when you find out which character is actually supposed to be writing the book, that I felt a bit let down. I don't think this is giving anything away, but the reason I felt disillusioned by it was that from the story they've written, I found it hard to believe how that character could know so much about Jennet's life. This is added to by the fact that the last twenty of so years of her life feel sort of skimmed over in the story.


The phrase in the title pops up a couple of times in the book, with two different meanings, and I thought both were beautiful and meaningful, and made me sit back and think for a minute. Definitely a book that made me pause to contemplate at times.


Overall, I would say I enjoyed it, and as I mentioned before, the analysis of the pieces of art was captivating which alone makes me want to recommend it as a book worth reading.

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