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The Art of Falling

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In this "delicate slow burn of a novel" (Jan Carson), a woman's marriage and career are threatened by an old indiscretion just as she receives the opportunity of a lifetime--from the award-winning author of the "extraordinary" (Colum McCann) Dinosaurs on Other Planets. Nessa McCormack's marriage is coming back together again after her husband's affair. She is excited to b In this "delicate slow burn of a novel" (Jan Carson), a woman's marriage and career are threatened by an old indiscretion just as she receives the opportunity of a lifetime--from the award-winning author of the "extraordinary" (Colum McCann) Dinosaurs on Other Planets. Nessa McCormack's marriage is coming back together again after her husband's affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibition for a beloved artist, the renowned late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two enigmatic outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: A chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her; and at work, an odd woman comes forward with a mysterious connection to Robert Locke's life and his most famous work, the Chalk Sculpture. As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she realizes she must decide what is the truth, whether she can continue to live with a lie, and what the consequences might be were she to fully unravel the mysteries in both the life of Robert Locke and her own. In this gripping and wonderfully written debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power, and the secrets that define us.


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In this "delicate slow burn of a novel" (Jan Carson), a woman's marriage and career are threatened by an old indiscretion just as she receives the opportunity of a lifetime--from the award-winning author of the "extraordinary" (Colum McCann) Dinosaurs on Other Planets. Nessa McCormack's marriage is coming back together again after her husband's affair. She is excited to b In this "delicate slow burn of a novel" (Jan Carson), a woman's marriage and career are threatened by an old indiscretion just as she receives the opportunity of a lifetime--from the award-winning author of the "extraordinary" (Colum McCann) Dinosaurs on Other Planets. Nessa McCormack's marriage is coming back together again after her husband's affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibition for a beloved artist, the renowned late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two enigmatic outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: A chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her; and at work, an odd woman comes forward with a mysterious connection to Robert Locke's life and his most famous work, the Chalk Sculpture. As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she realizes she must decide what is the truth, whether she can continue to live with a lie, and what the consequences might be were she to fully unravel the mysteries in both the life of Robert Locke and her own. In this gripping and wonderfully written debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power, and the secrets that define us.

30 review for The Art of Falling

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Danielle McLaughlin writes an assured multilayered family drama and examination of art, featuring art historian and curator of Elmes Art Gallery in Cork, Nessa McCormack, currently project manager of the gallery's acquisition of artist Robert Locke's The Chalk Sculpture, known locally as Venus at the Hotel Negresco, having acquired a reputation as a fertility symbol. It is Nessa's job to facilitate the sculpture's move from the home of his elderly widow, Eleanor, and his daughter, Loretta, whils Danielle McLaughlin writes an assured multilayered family drama and examination of art, featuring art historian and curator of Elmes Art Gallery in Cork, Nessa McCormack, currently project manager of the gallery's acquisition of artist Robert Locke's The Chalk Sculpture, known locally as Venus at the Hotel Negresco, having acquired a reputation as a fertility symbol. It is Nessa's job to facilitate the sculpture's move from the home of his elderly widow, Eleanor, and his daughter, Loretta, whilst gleaning as much information as possible on the work, art inspired by Eleanor, and on Locke himself through interviews. Nessa is in the process of rebuilding her marriage to architect, Philip, handsome, ambitious, careless of the family finances and security, and who betrayed Nessa with an affair with their teen daughter, Jennifer's best friend's mother, Cora Wilson, an affair that has repercussions on Jennifer. This is a story of truth, lies, secrets and deception as the past comes back to haunt both Nessa and the official history of the Chalk Sculpture promoted by Eleanor, Loretta and Nessa, and the tendency of society to grant godlike status to artists, men such as Locke, when in reality they are little more than flawed individuals, much like anyone else. It examines the women who maintain the fiction that so often lies behind the facade of great artists, and who even give up their own talents to support them. Nessa's life begins to fall apart when an older woman, Melanie Doerr, insists that she was responsible for a major part of the Chalk Sculpture and that it belongs to her, but that she will settle for being recognised with her name put up alongside that of Locke. Nessa who feels she knows Locke's life and work intimately, she had written a thesis on him at university, has never come across Melanie and dismisses her as an eccentric and strange woman. However, Melanie has a will of iron and refuses to go away. Simultaneously, Luke Harkin, the son of Nessa's dead best friend, Amy, enters her life, raising issues of her own past infidelities and risible behaviour to friends like Katherine Ferriter, being exposed. McLaughlin explores the fascinating and pivotal connections between art, women, the men they love, truth, secrets, family and society, as lives and worlds crumble as secrets from the past emerge into the light of the present. This is a beautifully written, complex, character driven novel that I loved being immersed in, it is entertaining, intense, a compulsive examination of art, artists, family, society, and human frailties. Many thanks to John Murray Press for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    This is a novel about secrets and truth, with the central character being Nessa McCormack. She needs to confront the truth in her fractured real with husband Philip and repair the fallout with her daughter Jennifer. In her work life as an art curator the truth about the provenance of The Chalk Sculpture the gallery is to display by deceased artist Robert Locke needs to be investigated when Melanie Doerr claims it is her work. This is a good debut novel which is complex, intelligent and well writ This is a novel about secrets and truth, with the central character being Nessa McCormack. She needs to confront the truth in her fractured real with husband Philip and repair the fallout with her daughter Jennifer. In her work life as an art curator the truth about the provenance of The Chalk Sculpture the gallery is to display by deceased artist Robert Locke needs to be investigated when Melanie Doerr claims it is her work. This is a good debut novel which is complex, intelligent and well written. I like the way the apparently disparate elements are woven together as Nessa goes on her own journey of confronting her guilty secrets and facing the truth alongside seeking the truth of Doerr’s claims. The characterisation is excellent especially that of Doerr who I find fascinating in her eccentricity and certainty. She’s intelligent, perceptive and definitely odd but seems truthful. The dynamics between the various protagonists is good, the dialogue is realistic and the storyline is engaging. I like the art element and as that mystery deepens you become invested in establishing the veracity of the claims. The novel builds well, there are good descriptions especially as things start to spin out of control in a kind of ‘it never rains but it pours’ fashion that mirrors life. The title is clever as there are several examples of ‘the art of falling’. Overall this is a well written multilayered novel which ties together well as it takes its seemingly meandering path along the way - that takes skill. With thanks to NetGalley and John Murray Press

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    If you drizzle a little power overhead, you'll find an unquenchable thirst for it. We humans seem to thrive on the acquisition alone. The Art of Falling takes us to Cork City in Ireland where Nessa McCormick has become the project manager of a celebrated art gallery. The gallery is in the midst of acquiring the Chalk Sculpture designed by the famous artist, Robert Locke of Scotland. The piece itself was created to resemble a woman in full bloom of her pregnancy. Women would leave tokens near it a If you drizzle a little power overhead, you'll find an unquenchable thirst for it. We humans seem to thrive on the acquisition alone. The Art of Falling takes us to Cork City in Ireland where Nessa McCormick has become the project manager of a celebrated art gallery. The gallery is in the midst of acquiring the Chalk Sculpture designed by the famous artist, Robert Locke of Scotland. The piece itself was created to resemble a woman in full bloom of her pregnancy. Women would leave tokens near it and touch it in hopes of becoming fertile.....a mighty powerful work of stone. But Nessa must interact with the late artist's elderly wife and daughter in order to acquire the piece for the gallery. Both seem to possess personalities of granite. Added to the stress is the arrival of an older woman who claims that she worked on the sculpture and the idea was hers and not Locke's. She seems to have no concrete proof at present, only her word. And her word becomes oppressive as she pursues Nessa relentlessly. Nessa's personal life will seep into this story as well. She and her husband are trying to mend their broken marriage after his affair. Their teenage daughter, Jennifer, is caught up in a power struggle in which she tries to take advantage of their weaken attention. Jennifer is secretly seeing a young man who is dangling information over Nessa's head about her previous life. Such dark secrets could destroy Nessa. The Art of Falling has many layers to sift through. It's quite the undertaking by Danielle McLaughlin with its multiple characters and subplots. The reviews meander back and forth. But there's quite the character study here with individuals who use the power of their positions, money, and dastardly deeds to hold others in check. And sometimes, as in the title, breaking free and falling away from the source is the greatest power of all. I received a copy of The Art of Falling through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House and to Danielle McLaughlin for the opportunity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin is a family drama which takes place in Ireland. Nessa McCormack is a gallery representative who is doing research on the works of a famous deceased sculptor. His wife and daughter are being interviewed by her but are often reluctant and suspicious of her motives. Nessa and her husband are working on reviving their marriage after he has had an affair with a local woman. They are also the parents of a teenage girl who is having a difficult time because of The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin is a family drama which takes place in Ireland. Nessa McCormack is a gallery representative who is doing research on the works of a famous deceased sculptor. His wife and daughter are being interviewed by her but are often reluctant and suspicious of her motives. Nessa and her husband are working on reviving their marriage after he has had an affair with a local woman. They are also the parents of a teenage girl who is having a difficult time because of this affair. The novel alternates between Nessa’s work life and her personal life and I found that too much is going on. There are too many characters and some of the goings-on seem unnecessary and overdone. It feels like Nessa is chasing her own tail while trying to please everyone and pleasing no one. However, The Art of Falling is well-written and will be enjoyed by many fans of relationship fiction. Thank you to Random House, NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    When I read Danielle McLaughlin's debut book of short stories “Dinosaurs on Other Planets” I knew this was an author to watch. Her ability to capture the nuances of our psychological reality and complex relationships in fiction is extraordinary. McLaughlin's talent has been confirmed by being awarded a Windham Campbell Prize and the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award in 2019 as well as numerous other literary awards. So her first novel comes with a lot of anticipation. At its heart, “The Art When I read Danielle McLaughlin's debut book of short stories “Dinosaurs on Other Planets” I knew this was an author to watch. Her ability to capture the nuances of our psychological reality and complex relationships in fiction is extraordinary. McLaughlin's talent has been confirmed by being awarded a Windham Campbell Prize and the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award in 2019 as well as numerous other literary awards. So her first novel comes with a lot of anticipation. At its heart, “The Art of Falling” is about a seemingly ordinary woman named Nessa whose busy days are filled with her work at an art gallery and caring for her family: husband Philip whose ambitious property development business has fallen on hard times in the wake of the devastating Irish property bubble and teenage daughter Jennifer who is growing secretive and difficult. Yet, amidst juggling gallery lectures and shopping for food to make the family dinner, Nessa grows increasingly aware of how fragile her reality has become. Her marriage is still recovering from the recent discovery that Philip was having an affair. More inconvenient truths from the past soon emerge. An eccentric woman publicly asserts that she is the true creator of a famous sculpture that's the centrepiece of an exhibit Nessa is curating. Also, the son of Nessa's long-deceased friend Amy visits the area seeking to learn more about his mother's life. These factors tip Nessa's world into chaos as she scrambles to keep things together and she must question whether buried truths should remain so. These dilemmas create an emotional pressure which is intensely felt and the complex meaning of this story gradually unfolds as the facts are revealed. Read my full review of The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin on LonesomeReader

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Reeve

    This would have been such a spectacular short story. I thought that throughout the book, which felt long even though it is not that long (384 pages). I did not realize until I reached the end that this is the debut novel of an award-winning short story writer. Taking it as a debut novel, it’s good - better than most debuts. The writing is polished and assured, the images are amazing, and the characters are flawed in a relatable way. The descriptions of art and landscapes are immersive and compell This would have been such a spectacular short story. I thought that throughout the book, which felt long even though it is not that long (384 pages). I did not realize until I reached the end that this is the debut novel of an award-winning short story writer. Taking it as a debut novel, it’s good - better than most debuts. The writing is polished and assured, the images are amazing, and the characters are flawed in a relatable way. The descriptions of art and landscapes are immersive and compelling, particularly the descriptions of light and water. The main storyline held the most interest for me: Nessa works for a gallery, negotiating the acquisition of a legendary sculpture with the late artist’s protective and evasive family. When a strange woman claims she created the sculpture, issues of appropriation, betrayal, collusion, corruption, and insistent ignorance unsettle Nessa’s personal and professional lives. I applaud the author for stretching beyond a genre in which she is obviously so accomplished. Although I think a shorter work would have left a raw, resonant edge and let the astonishing images better advance the narrative, I look forward to the author’s next book. Many thanks to NetGalley and to Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    There's nothing I like better than an engrossing book centered in the world of art and this debut novel did not disappoint in any way. It's a slow-building, character-driven book that I became completely lost in. The sculpture known as the "Chalk Sculpture" is a character in its own right. The author oh so skillfully merges the past into the present. It's a beautifully written, empathetic book that I most highly recommend. Can't wait to read the author's short story collection entitled "Dinosaur There's nothing I like better than an engrossing book centered in the world of art and this debut novel did not disappoint in any way. It's a slow-building, character-driven book that I became completely lost in. The sculpture known as the "Chalk Sculpture" is a character in its own right. The author oh so skillfully merges the past into the present. It's a beautifully written, empathetic book that I most highly recommend. Can't wait to read the author's short story collection entitled "Dinosaurs on Other Planets".

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alison Hardtmann

    Nessa is preparing the studio of a famous local artist and its artworks to be moved to an art museum, with the help and opposition of the artist's widow and mother. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity with the mother of one of her teenage daughter’s friends, as well as the visit of the son of her best friend, who committed suicide years earlier. It’s a lot. Nessa scrambles to keep all the complicated parts of her life functioning, and managing to do none of it well. Nessa is preparing the studio of a famous local artist and its artworks to be moved to an art museum, with the help and opposition of the artist's widow and mother. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity with the mother of one of her teenage daughter’s friends, as well as the visit of the son of her best friend, who committed suicide years earlier. It’s a lot. Nessa scrambles to keep all the complicated parts of her life functioning, and managing to do none of it well. She’s exhausted, confused, angry and unable to think on her feet. Worse, she can’t really see how any of this is going to become less stressful in the future. McLaughlin writes well, beautifully at times, and the circumstances of this novel are interesting, especially the story of the dead artist and the women who survive him. But Nessa never comes fully into focus. She is always left reacting to things, never acting decisively. I did love how easy it was for others to distract or derail her in conversation, which is a very human trait, but she was never quite convincing as being someone in a position of authority, whether that was as the person in charge of an important work project or as a mother. While I have a few quibbles with how tidily everything was resolved, the writing in this novel was just lovely and I’ll happily read more by her.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Rochester

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This was a novel that I had to wish for on Netgalley and the publisher granted my wish. I am not sure I even read what it was going to be about because the cover and the title really drew me in. That being said, I really enjoyed the book. :) Nessa and her family are the main characters, for the most part...the cheating husband, the teenage daughter full of angst, and Nessa herself (who has many secret Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This was a novel that I had to wish for on Netgalley and the publisher granted my wish. I am not sure I even read what it was going to be about because the cover and the title really drew me in. That being said, I really enjoyed the book. :) Nessa and her family are the main characters, for the most part...the cheating husband, the teenage daughter full of angst, and Nessa herself (who has many secrets, by the way). We jump from past to present frequently but it is easy to stay on top of what happened and when. It is really hard to explain this book, actually, because there are so many side characters. Nessa works for an art gallery and she is in charge of the upcoming display of a dead sculptor...this display includes an enormous piece of art called the Chalk Sculpture. In preparation, she has been interviewing the widow and daughter about how this Chalk Sculpture came to be. Suddenly, Melanie shows up and claims that she had a large part in it's creation. ALL of these side characters and stories from the past ultimately have something to do with each other and tie the story together quite nicely. In the end, I really enjoyed the story. :)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alayne Emmett

    This book didn’t inspire me very much and i struggled to finish it. I think maybe it’s because my mind was elsewhere as the current news was that Christmas is now cancelled due to the virus. What a year this has been a terrible year. But, before today’s news I did find this book difficult to get into hence the 3 stars. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    I’ll be honest, I struggled with this one. J hate critiquing someone’s hard work, especially when it’s a debut novel, but I found this to be incredibly dry and not particularly interesting. I love character-driven novels but I didn’t find any of them to have any elements I found intriguing. There was a lot going on with many different characters, which made it hard to keep my interest. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This comes o I’ll be honest, I struggled with this one. J hate critiquing someone’s hard work, especially when it’s a debut novel, but I found this to be incredibly dry and not particularly interesting. I love character-driven novels but I didn’t find any of them to have any elements I found intriguing. There was a lot going on with many different characters, which made it hard to keep my interest. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This comes out Jan 5/21.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    McLaughlin writes lyrically and thoughtfully, but it’s really tough to get past how petty and small the central themes of this book are. I’m not a fan of domestic drama, particularly when it focuses on cheating spouses, but I had high hopes for the art-based component of this story, which appeared at first to be an intriguing question of authenticity and creative theft. Unfortunately even that part of the plot was ultimately rooted in domestic squabbles and infidelity, much to my disappointment. McLaughlin writes lyrically and thoughtfully, but it’s really tough to get past how petty and small the central themes of this book are. I’m not a fan of domestic drama, particularly when it focuses on cheating spouses, but I had high hopes for the art-based component of this story, which appeared at first to be an intriguing question of authenticity and creative theft. Unfortunately even that part of the plot was ultimately rooted in domestic squabbles and infidelity, much to my disappointment. This kind of stuff just feels small and vaguely gross to me, so I struggled to enjoy this book despite McLaughlin’s lovely writing and deft storytelling. In short, this isn’t a bad book at all (in fact, it’s quite well-crafted). It just wasn’t a good book for me. This has all the bleakness and depressing moral failures of a Tana French novel, but none of the intrigue, mystery, and subtle humor. It also doesn’t help that it’s hard to find a single truly likable character among the cast. Because the quality of the work is not bad at all, this one will likely sit better with readers who enjoy anatomy of a marriage/infidelity plot lines than it did with me. *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vickie

    Nessa’s life has become quite complicated. She is curating a much anticipated retrospective exhibition by a late sculptor when a woman supposedly from his past makes an appearance and claims his most famous piece is actually hers. Nessa has already been walking a tightrope between his elderly wife and not quite as elderly daughter, both somewhat difficult people with whom to work. Her husband has had an affair with the wife of one of their daughter’s friends which has destroyed that friendship. Nessa’s life has become quite complicated. She is curating a much anticipated retrospective exhibition by a late sculptor when a woman supposedly from his past makes an appearance and claims his most famous piece is actually hers. Nessa has already been walking a tightrope between his elderly wife and not quite as elderly daughter, both somewhat difficult people with whom to work. Her husband has had an affair with the wife of one of their daughter’s friends which has destroyed that friendship. Marriage counseling seems to be going a bit bumpy and old friends with old secrets show up. The book started well, but soon it seemed to take a long time to tell not that interesting of a story. There were many side dramas and characters, and I didn’t find any of them really very likable.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Brody

    Nessa and Phillip McCormack's marriage is at a rocky point. Phillip has been having an affair with the mother of his daughter's best friend. Jennifer, the McCormack's daughter, has found out about the affair and has been acting out at school and at home. On top of this, Phillip has made several poor business decisions and they are deep in debt. Intermittently, the novel focuses on these things, but at its heart, is Nessa's work as an art historian for a prestigious gallery. Nessa has attained a g Nessa and Phillip McCormack's marriage is at a rocky point. Phillip has been having an affair with the mother of his daughter's best friend. Jennifer, the McCormack's daughter, has found out about the affair and has been acting out at school and at home. On top of this, Phillip has made several poor business decisions and they are deep in debt. Intermittently, the novel focuses on these things, but at its heart, is Nessa's work as an art historian for a prestigious gallery. Nessa has attained a grant to look into the work of deceased artist Robert Locke, especially one of his pieces, The Chalk Sculpture. This sculpture is famous as a fertility enhancer. Infertile couples would travel to it in hopes of conceiving a baby and leave some money at the same time. Robert Locke's wife and daughter are still alive and Nessa is spending much of her time interviewing them about Locke's work. They are very possessive of the knowledge they disperse and often seem reluctant to share too much. Out of the blue, an older woman shows up who claims to be both the muse and the creator of The Chalk Sculpture. This puts a big dent in Nessa's work. As she is trying to balance her family issues, she now has to walk on tiptoes at work because there are several opinions about this woman's claim. The writing is excellent and I loved the family drama. However, some of the narrative was repetitive and the book went on several rabbit trails that were unnecessary, bringing in more characters and background than were useful. Had the novel's story line been tightened up, and the repetition removed, I would have rated it a '5'.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Caoilinn

    In The Art of Falling, McLaughlin adds to literature something vital: a real, unbeautified narrative about a woman's career and life. Truths withheld are part of that life, as they are part of the narrative ... but none are withheld from the reader. The truths hit home. A propulsive, disquieting, arrestive novel by a master of social realism. (Readers who need their characters to be 'likeable' may struggle with this one.) In The Art of Falling, McLaughlin adds to literature something vital: a real, unbeautified narrative about a woman's career and life. Truths withheld are part of that life, as they are part of the narrative ... but none are withheld from the reader. The truths hit home. A propulsive, disquieting, arrestive novel by a master of social realism. (Readers who need their characters to be 'likeable' may struggle with this one.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    I had a hard time following the art parts and couldn't find myself interested in her career or the sculptor. The drama with the family and especially with the teenage daughter was interesting. There seemed to be too many characters introduced early on and I felt flooded with characters and plots in the beginning. It was hard to break through this to understand all the dimensions of the story. I had a hard time following the art parts and couldn't find myself interested in her career or the sculptor. The drama with the family and especially with the teenage daughter was interesting. There seemed to be too many characters introduced early on and I felt flooded with characters and plots in the beginning. It was hard to break through this to understand all the dimensions of the story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    I could not finish because with what's going on in the world today, coupled with some extremely good fiction I've read lately, this one fell short. Couldn't get into a story about crumbling marriages and mysterious backgrounds of artworks no matter how well written. May try again later. I could not finish because with what's going on in the world today, coupled with some extremely good fiction I've read lately, this one fell short. Couldn't get into a story about crumbling marriages and mysterious backgrounds of artworks no matter how well written. May try again later.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    THE ART OF FALLING BY DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN I was super surprised that this novel was disappointing to me as I usually love books based on art and realistic contemporary fiction. I am not sure if I am requesting novels as carefully as I should be but this one felt rather flat and the character's just weren't all that interesting to me. This centers around an 84 year old widow named Eleanor and her daughter Loretta grasping tightly that the dead sculptor named Robert Locke's masterpiece of a chalk-li THE ART OF FALLING BY DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN I was super surprised that this novel was disappointing to me as I usually love books based on art and realistic contemporary fiction. I am not sure if I am requesting novels as carefully as I should be but this one felt rather flat and the character's just weren't all that interesting to me. This centers around an 84 year old widow named Eleanor and her daughter Loretta grasping tightly that the dead sculptor named Robert Locke's masterpiece of a chalk-like figure was designed after a photograph of a younger pregnant Eleanor. There is also an interlocking story of Nessa who as an art historian that has done extensive research into Robert Locke's life and papers is trying to validate Eleanor's theory by working with his wife and daughter's at their home while her marriage is in serious trouble. The very beginning of this novel seemed to be compelling starting out with a meeting between Nessa and the head of her daughter's school in a meeting where the administrator is asking Nessa if there are any problems at home. There are! Nessa's husband who is an architect has been caught in an adulterous affair with their teen aged daughter's best friend's mother. They are in marriage counselling and don't seem to be making much progress. Nessa also has been unfaithful with her best friend's partner which she is hiding and if exposed will cause hurt to her daughter and further cause harm to her marriage. I think that this novel tries unsuccessfully to explore too many threads at the same time. There is a lot going on and nothing is examined deeply enough to be realistic to me. We have Nessa's best friend who committed suicide named Amy who Nessa was carrying on an affair for month's with Amy's boyfriend in college surfacing year's later when Amy's adult son reads about them in Amy's diary. He was given his dead mother's diary by his Aunt Greta which Nessa knows that it is just a matter of time before he tells her daughter and husband. There is Melanie who claims that Robert Locke's sculpture that Nessa is tirelessly trying to disprove Melanie's claims that the sculpture was developed in her image not Eleanor's. There is Eleanor whose health seems to be at stake and Loretta her daughter who fiercely protects and tries to shield her mother from Melanie's claims. I found that I just couldn't get drawn into the many directions that this narrative was going enough to care about any of the character's. I really in good conscience say that with everything going on that I just felt that I didn't care or like any of these character's and didn't feel that they were well developed. I don't need to like the character's to be captivated and in summary I have to admit that this novel wasn't for me. Publication Date: January 5, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Danielle McLaughlin and Random House Publishing for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. #TheArtofFalling #Danielle McLaughlin #RandomHousePublishing #NetGalley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐓𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐢𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐨, 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞, 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐭, 𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐜𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝𝐧’𝐭. Nessa McCormack is project managing an acquisition of the late, renowned sculptor Robert Locke’s work. The Elmes Gallery she works for is buying his studio. Nothing thrills her more, having written her thesis on Locke when she was a young student of art history and ‘star-struck’ by the man. I via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐓𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐢𝐧 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐨, 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞, 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐭, 𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐜𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝𝐧’𝐭. Nessa McCormack is project managing an acquisition of the late, renowned sculptor Robert Locke’s work. The Elmes Gallery she works for is buying his studio. Nothing thrills her more, having written her thesis on Locke when she was a young student of art history and ‘star-struck’ by the man. Invited into the Locke house, nothing commands her attention more than the Chalk Sculpture, having achieved notoriety as ’embodying fertility powers.’ It’s unsettling beauty and mysterious form is solid evidence of Robert’s genius. Rescuing the statue from ‘indignities’, like the many hands of supplicants touching it’s belly, was a mission she accomplished. If only dealing with the women in his life were as easy. With dictaphone in hand, Nessa is ready to record Locke’s widow Eleanor’s memories, hoping to write a paper about his life as seen through the eyes of his women but remembering brings pain, anger. His daughter Loretta is her protector, making sure the elderly woman doesn’t get upset. The truth behind the Chalk Sculpture is about to be challenged by a woman, Melanie Doerr, claiming deeper ties to Robert, and his family. Nessa doesn’t wish to give any credence to her wild claims, but is she lying? Why are Eleanor and Loretta reacting with so much hostility, if the woman is of no concern? Nessa’s personal life is an emotional storm, dealing with the fallout of her husband’s betrayal, their own daughter’s friendship and social life is damaged. Things are about to become more difficult with a chance encounter with an old friend from her London days, inviting her to meet Luke, son of her best friend Amy, this is going to be a complication. Luke wants to know what his mother was like, the hunger will go further than a simple dinner. The friendship between she and his mother Amy turned grim, but is she at fault? With everyone pushing Luke on her, she agrees to take him to photograph Robert’s work, little does she know she has set off a chain of events that will come back to bite her. Locke is a different man for each woman who loved or tolerated him. His wife endured his ‘disappearances’, carried on with the reality of living, caring for the necessities. Everyone imagines themselves one way in his life, but who knows how we mislead ourselves and measure (wrongly) our own importance in another’s heart? There are many stories within this novel, fueling the pressure and stress we’re meant to witness Nessa is under. It is an interesting dissection of the greatness of men, the women that step aside or lead punishing existences for his ‘talent and genius’. The cracks in fame, the cost for family of passions others can’t seem to keep reigned in, soured friendships, regrets, guilt, art- no one is entirely innocent, each has self-serving intentions. Truth is malleable, but it doesn’t always take the form we wish it to, a form that benefits our narrative. I actually enjoyed the way characters stepped in and pulled your attention, life isn’t normally focused on one part of your life, career, family, strangers, all the dramas swirl around us at all times. It’s the little things that drain you and the past has a way of surfacing when you’re already dodging bullets. A solid read for me. Publication Date: January 5, 2021 Random House

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    I found this novel disappointing. I didn't care about the characters one jot, perhaps because the reader was given very little to place them socially, very little in the way of a sense of society around them, and their emotional narratives were quite thin. I wasn't even sure whether I was expected to like or dislike the main character Nessa, and struggled to understand what kind of person she was supposed to be. The artworld is very difficult to write about, and unfortunately this book only confi I found this novel disappointing. I didn't care about the characters one jot, perhaps because the reader was given very little to place them socially, very little in the way of a sense of society around them, and their emotional narratives were quite thin. I wasn't even sure whether I was expected to like or dislike the main character Nessa, and struggled to understand what kind of person she was supposed to be. The artworld is very difficult to write about, and unfortunately this book only confirmed that. I also wish the emotional resonance of the affair revealed at the beginning had been explored more, or intertwined with the other plot line in a more meaningful way. Instead, we had two plots, neither particularly interesting, and rather predictable. With so many books out there to read, this was not for me. I received this book as an advanced proof copy from the publisher. As context I should admit that I normally read more literary fiction than this (though I like the odd crime novel too, and love the Galbraith Strike novels).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    The Art of Falling is a confident and absorbing piece of work. As an art curator, Nessa is in charge of the procurement of The Chalk Sculpture for the gallery, liaising with the sculptor’s widow and daughter. Difficulties arise when an eccentric woman claims a credit in it. Meanwhile, at home, struggling to reset her family in the wake of her husband’s recent indiscretion, the unexpected appearance in her life of the son of a college friend creates even more complications. Well written, with stark The Art of Falling is a confident and absorbing piece of work. As an art curator, Nessa is in charge of the procurement of The Chalk Sculpture for the gallery, liaising with the sculptor’s widow and daughter. Difficulties arise when an eccentric woman claims a credit in it. Meanwhile, at home, struggling to reset her family in the wake of her husband’s recent indiscretion, the unexpected appearance in her life of the son of a college friend creates even more complications. Well written, with stark visual descriptions and beautifully balanced character development even if biased in favour of women, The Art of Falling is a very special book. The detailed analysis of The Chalk Sculpture itself and its influences, from the maquettes to the imagery of the photograph on which is said to be based, is daunting but fascinating. With secrets tumbling out from every direction and threatening to overwhelm, the narrative kept me enthralled. I really loved this read. With thanks to Netgalley and John Murray Press

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I couldn't put this book down. In many ways, the author is exploring shame, loss, resentment, jealousy, bonds and everything that makes us human. The characters are all flawed, but their decisions are based on their life experience. I found the novel touching, delicate and raw, and I find myself thinking of it weeks after I've finished reading it. The author has a real sensitivity to identify underlying emotions at any given time and deliver them naturally in the narrative. I saw in a few reviews I couldn't put this book down. In many ways, the author is exploring shame, loss, resentment, jealousy, bonds and everything that makes us human. The characters are all flawed, but their decisions are based on their life experience. I found the novel touching, delicate and raw, and I find myself thinking of it weeks after I've finished reading it. The author has a real sensitivity to identify underlying emotions at any given time and deliver them naturally in the narrative. I saw in a few reviews people put off by the 'art language', and I was expecting to be lost when the description arrived but it never happens. It's never about the art criticism; it is about the meaning of the sculpture, related to our characters' different connections with it. It acts as a unifying theme, and the author uses it to develop ideas. Brilliant debut novel, can't wait to see what she does next. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. #TheArtofFalling #NetGalley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    For some reason I couldn’t stay involved in this novel. One of my pet peeves is overcrowding in a book and I found this over crowded with plots and characters. I simply couldn’t focus or identify with the main character, Nessa. It just seemed like there was too much going on, too many revelations and too much history. This was not a novel that I found engaging. Thank you Netgalley for this opportunity.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mairead Hearne (swirlandthread.com)

    “It’s designed to self-destruct. Grain by grain, year by year. Then gone…nothing” Cork writer Danielle McLaughlin has been making waves in the literary world for a number of years, with her 2015 debut short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets receiving great praise from many. Anne Enright stated that “this is not a debut in the usual sense; a promise of greater things to come. There is no need to ask what Danielle McLaughlin will do next, she has done it already. This book has arrived “It’s designed to self-destruct. Grain by grain, year by year. Then gone…nothing” Cork writer Danielle McLaughlin has been making waves in the literary world for a number of years, with her 2015 debut short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets receiving great praise from many. Anne Enright stated that “this is not a debut in the usual sense; a promise of greater things to come. There is no need to ask what Danielle McLaughlin will do next, she has done it already. This book has arrived. I think it will stay with us for a long time” In 2019 she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction and was the winner of The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. Now Danielle McLaughlin is releasing (Feb 4th) her debut novel, The Art of Falling, with John Murray Publishers, a book that has been described as ‘a beautifully written family drama about betrayal, ownership and creativity..’ Set in Cork, with the most vivid description of places that are very familiar to me, Danielle McLaughlin has written a superb debut novel. The Art of Falling is a quiet story with stunning writing that completely captures the attention of the reader. It has a simplicity in its elegance, yet carries great depth as we read about the life of Nessa McCormack, an art curator for a gallery in Cork, ‘a renovated Venetian-style building on the north quays of Cork city, with windows reminiscent of Grand Central Station…’ Nessa had the perfect life. A beautiful home in Sunday’s Well with a garden that swept down to the River Lee overlooking Fitzgerald’s Park across it’s banks, a fifteen-year-old daughter, Jennifer and her husband, Philip, who she had always loved and adored. But all that changed the day she discovered that Philip had had an affair with Cora Wilson, the mother of Jennifer’s close friend Mandy. With the seed of anger planted in their relationship, the poison began to spread and infiltrate their lives. Nessa wanted to forgive, wanted to move on, but it was proving a greater challenge than she had expected. Reminders always triggered the feelings of jealousy and disgust, little barbs that kept rising up out of the ground. The one solace Nessa had in her life was her job and the exciting proposition of a new exhibition by renowned sculptor, Robert Locke. With the artist now dead, his wife gave permission for a gallery showcase that would highlight his piece The Chalk Sculpture, one that had attracted pilgrims to the Locke family home in West Cork over the years due to it’s supposed fertility attributes. It is Nessa’s job to collate the exhibit, which includes his disassembled workshop/studio, and display it at the gallery to all his fans, both new and old. With her weekly visits to West Cork Nessa has been able to distract herself from her personal life but when an old friend re-enters her world Nessa soon realises that past actions are about to come crashing in on her world. Meanwhile, a rather eccentric lady has surfaced claiming rights over The Chalk Sculpture and is throwing doubt on the true origins of this famed piece. Nessa initially is sceptical of this woman’s claim. There is no documentary evidence and the Locke family have no knowledge of this woman, yet there is something niggling at Nessa’s mind all the same. Her trips to West Cork become more frequent due to an invite to a friend’s holiday home overlooking the breath-taking lake, Lough Hyne, near Skibbereen and it is here that she bumps into someone from her past. Now. in both her personal and professional life, the past is clashing with the present, with the real possibility of disastrous results on all fronts. Nessa is faced with some very challenging decisions, knowing that any move she makes will have consequences, not just for her, but for her family and friends and also from a professional perspective for the Locke Family and the greater art world. The Art of Falling is a novel that has been over nine years in the making, with Danielle McLaughlin ensuring that what we would be presented with would be this piece of perfection. It is a novel of introspection, a novel of character and a novel of beauty. Exploring multiple themes Danielle McLaughlin has expertly written a moving, deep and compelling read examining marriage, relationships, creativity and so much more. It’s premise is quite unique and it’s presentation is beautifully crafted in a tale that will capture the heart and soul of every reader. The Art of Falling is a stunning book, an outstanding piece of literary fiction. With its most striking descriptions of Cork city and county, Danielle McLaughlin captures the beauty of her home with gorgeous imagery throughout. Packed with subtle observations of life in all its complexities, The Art of Falling is an exquisite debut novel and, I can honestly say, it has been an honour and a real pleasure to have had the opportunity to read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    It’s difficult to explain why I didn’t love this book because there are few things I can pinpoint that I think could have been done better, but unfortunately there is nothing special about it. It’s the story of a family in Ireland, Nessa, Philip, and their daughter Jennifer, who are suffering from the fallout of Philip’s infidelity, which has fractured the bonds between them all. The novel follows Nessa as she works to create an art exhibition dedicated to a beloved local artist, when a mysterio It’s difficult to explain why I didn’t love this book because there are few things I can pinpoint that I think could have been done better, but unfortunately there is nothing special about it. It’s the story of a family in Ireland, Nessa, Philip, and their daughter Jennifer, who are suffering from the fallout of Philip’s infidelity, which has fractured the bonds between them all. The novel follows Nessa as she works to create an art exhibition dedicated to a beloved local artist, when a mysterious woman appears, claiming to have been involved with the creation of his most famous piece, the Chalk Sculpture. The secrets of Nessa’s past, her family life and the complications of the exhibition all get tangled up as a chance encounter with an old friend leads her to meet the son of her university friend Amy, who committed suicide years before. There’s a lot going on in this book and its plotting deserves admiration - there are a lot of strands that join together in different ways but it was never confusing. The characters are mostly well-developed, which is impressive given how many there are, although the depiction of Nessa’s teenage daughter did occasionally annoy me, especially in one instance where she acts as a stereotypical insensitive teenager just for the sake of some clumsy exposition. The discussions of art also didn’t interest me, it was like being told about someone’s dream that was obviously very interesting to them but doesn’t hold any weight as a story told in words. I enjoyed the second half a lot more, once the exposition was out of the way and the plot thickened a bit. But I was left feeling cold and unsure of what I was supposed to take away from this story. Nothing was bad, but there’s nothing exceptional about it either - the writing is fine, the story is well-plotted but not particularly interesting… I don’t know. It just didn’t do anything special for me. Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Petrina Binney

    The story follows Nessa, an art curator, wife and mother living in Cork. Although she has forgiven her husband for having an affair with the mother of a friend of their daughter, Nessa is in two minds about her decision to forgive. The relationship balances on a knife-edge for much of the story as they undergo counselling, while their daughter Jennifer, a Daddy’s girl, blames her mother for not being more assertive and ripping her father a new one. While all this is going on, Nessa is in charge of The story follows Nessa, an art curator, wife and mother living in Cork. Although she has forgiven her husband for having an affair with the mother of a friend of their daughter, Nessa is in two minds about her decision to forgive. The relationship balances on a knife-edge for much of the story as they undergo counselling, while their daughter Jennifer, a Daddy’s girl, blames her mother for not being more assertive and ripping her father a new one. While all this is going on, Nessa is in charge of curating an exhibition by late Irish artist and cultural powerhouse, Robert Locke. But who is the mysterious woman who’s been lurking round the gallery? And how much influence did she really have over the deceased artist? And how is Nessa to manage all of this with the widow and her funny turns and odd daughter as well as her own secrets spilling to the fore? A gorgeous work of literary fiction, I absolutely loved this debut novel from Danielle McLaughlin. I’ve heard that people struggle to define literary fiction so I’ll tell you what it means to me (doesn’t mean I’m right): the story doesn’t play second fiddle to the characters, but the thoughts, feelings and instincts of the character play a large part in the action of the piece. In The Art Of Falling we have a wonderful example of how everything might look calm and composed on the outside while everything within is falling apart. I love this kind of story and the writing was precise, almost musical in nature. The characters were beautifully realised, and I will look forward to reading more from this author in future. “‘I’m afraid we’re running behind,’ Loretta Locke had said on the doorstep, ‘my mother took a bit of a turn.’ The first time she’d used that phrase ‘a bit of a turn’, Nessa had been alarmed, but it turned out that Loretta used it to mean anything from a mild stroke to a fit of bad temper.” page 18, Chapter Two, The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin “Closer up, Nessa saw that his jeans were faded, and he’d paired them with shoes that looked like they belonged to someone else, the kind of shoes a stockbroker might wear to the office. His jacket was baggy at the elbows and shoulders, as if the material had lost some of its substance, and she thought, He hasn’t done so well; Eleanor Locke would have something to say about that jacket.” page 86, Chapter Ten, The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin An absolute must.

  27. 4 out of 5

    booksofallkinds

    *I voluntarily reviewed this book from the Publisher. A deftly-layered story of lies, secrets, and the power that art and love can hold over people, THE ART OF FALLING by Danielle McLaughlin is an excellent novel that fascinated me from the very beginning. Nessa McCormack is trying her best to make her marriage work after her husband slept with the mother of their daughter's best friend, but it is proving more difficult than she thought it would be. But at least she can throw herself into her work *I voluntarily reviewed this book from the Publisher. A deftly-layered story of lies, secrets, and the power that art and love can hold over people, THE ART OF FALLING by Danielle McLaughlin is an excellent novel that fascinated me from the very beginning. Nessa McCormack is trying her best to make her marriage work after her husband slept with the mother of their daughter's best friend, but it is proving more difficult than she thought it would be. But at least she can throw herself into her work, curating the move of the prestigious sculptor Robert Locke's work to the gallery. Nessa feels on solid ground here as she knows she is an expert in this field even if dealing with his eccentric widow and daughter can be challenging at times. But when a woman lays claim to Locke's most famous art piece, The Chalk Sculpture, Nessa must dig into the past to see if there is any truth to the rumours. And when the son of her oldest best friend comes into her life, she may just have to face up to her actions in the past in her personal life too, if she is ever going to find peace in the present. Compelling characters and textured parallels between art and Nessa's own life make this story unputdownable. All of the characters are flawed and human which makes them all the more relatable, and as I got to know Nessa, her family, the Locke family, and those connected to them, I wanted to understand them and the decisions that they made throughout their lives. THE ART OF FALLING by Danielle McLaughlin is a stunning debut from a talented new author and I eagerly look forward to Danielle's next novel.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Betty Beel

    This book destroyed my subconscious 🤯 It has been popping up in my dreams all week. It will make you face what type of person you are or have been. Have you lied, betrayed or hurt the people in your life? Do they know what you’ve done? I started to apologize to people in my dreams because of this book! It starts off a bit slow but if you get through the first quarter of the book you will be submerged into an intense existential elevator. Irish stories get me everytime! The book starts with Nessa d This book destroyed my subconscious 🤯 It has been popping up in my dreams all week. It will make you face what type of person you are or have been. Have you lied, betrayed or hurt the people in your life? Do they know what you’ve done? I started to apologize to people in my dreams because of this book! It starts off a bit slow but if you get through the first quarter of the book you will be submerged into an intense existential elevator. Irish stories get me everytime! The book starts with Nessa dealing with the fallout surrounding her husband’s affair. While Nessa is dealing with her messy personal life she encounters further drama at work. She’s an art expert and is in the process of acquiring a large collection of sculptures from Robert Locke for her gallery. An older woman shows up at the gallery claiming she is the real artist and muse of Robert’s most famous chalk sculpture. Nessa is also encountered by another outsider, the son of her deceased best friend. Her life gets uber complicated and we find out that Nessa has a lot of secrets of her own. McLaughlin lures you into the lore of this sculpture, its every curve, its history, its meaning. The story goes that the sculpture was never meant to survive, because it was made in chalk and the performance of the piece is its decay. Is this what happens to us if we hold on to our lies and betrayals? Is it a symbol of life in general? Do we slowly slip away after each touch? Ugh it’s so gooooood! One line in the novel really stuck with me which was said by two characters in relation to the creation of art, “It’s not the use I make of it, it’s the use it makes of me.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    As Nessa tries to rebuild her life after her husband has an affair, will things be plain sailing or will more people come into her life causing it to become more difficult? This is a very well written book and I enjoyed the general storyline. I did find that it was quite a slow story, there is lots of history in this book, both about the artist and of the characters. I didn’t find the characters particularly likeable and because of this found it hard to really get into the story. Some parts were As Nessa tries to rebuild her life after her husband has an affair, will things be plain sailing or will more people come into her life causing it to become more difficult? This is a very well written book and I enjoyed the general storyline. I did find that it was quite a slow story, there is lots of history in this book, both about the artist and of the characters. I didn’t find the characters particularly likeable and because of this found it hard to really get into the story. Some parts were quite predictable and after quite lengthy discussions on some issues in the book, the end seemed to summarise quite quickly and everything was sorted and concluded. I would read other material from this author as I felt she developed the characters well even though they weren’t the most popular people in my opinion!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Nessa is an art historian in her forties, with a sixteen year old daughter, Jennifer, and a husband who has just been caught out in an affair with Jennifer’s best friend’s dumpy mother. She goes through the motions of her life, escaping the awkwardness the affair has caused by immersing herself in her work curating the purchase and transfer to her gallery of the studio and star sculpture of the recently deceased artist Robert Locke. The sale is being managed by Locke’s daughter and widow, but th Nessa is an art historian in her forties, with a sixteen year old daughter, Jennifer, and a husband who has just been caught out in an affair with Jennifer’s best friend’s dumpy mother. She goes through the motions of her life, escaping the awkwardness the affair has caused by immersing herself in her work curating the purchase and transfer to her gallery of the studio and star sculpture of the recently deceased artist Robert Locke. The sale is being managed by Locke’s daughter and widow, but the smooth progress of the deal is interrupted by the appearance of the seemingly delusional Melanie Doerr, who appears at a lecture and claims involvement in the production of the Chalk Sculpture. Add to this a chance encounter with an old flatmate which sparks a reunion with a former lover and the grown-up son of another friend who committed suicide, and the scene is set for a rapid unravelling of the various threads of Nessa’s life. A theme that runs through this book is that of what constitutes the truth, and the storyline dealing with the Chalk Sculpture’s provenance is well done, shaking Nessa’s confidence in her scholarship and knowledge of Locke’s life and work. This is a story of multiple lies, omissions, half-Ruth’s and betrayal, and their consequences. Other readers have found Nessa unlikeable but I wouldn’t go that far. The problem, I think, is that she remains something of a cipher throughout. We see her actions, but are not really privy to her thoughts and motivations so it is hard to form a bond with her. She seems very self-sufficient as her world implodes around her, with only occasional indications that she is under a huge strain. But then, that is how many women deal with crises, presenting an unflappable face to the world while quietly falling apart inside. In the end, I thought this book was no better than average, and it is because it kept reminding me of other stories I’ve read with similar themes - Patrick Gale’s Notes From An Exhibition kept springing to mind. It also felt a bit longer than it needed to be, with some threads feeling as though they were inserted in order to provoke a crisis and a resolution. It’s worth a read, and is not a difficult one, but it’s not one I will be recommending as stand-out.

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