Synopsis. (from amazon)
Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of a hospital. Deaf and mute, he is unable to communicate until a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page.
The memories are Safta’s also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor house which was Safta’s family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin’s world remained the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society – and a fleeting love, one long, hot summer.
But then came war, and in its wake a brutal Stalinist regime, and nothing would remain the same.
This book wasn’t really what I expected. I thought that as a reader we would be wondering who this man was who had turned up on the steps of a hospital. This was true initially, but we didn’t make a discovery so much as the secret was, rather too quickly, revealed. It took away some of the mystery which I had expected to get from the book, and actually made it harder to get into than it could potentially have been. I was never at a point where I thought I would give up, but I wasn’t very interested in it most of the way through, and tended to be doing other things when I would normally have been reading it. Consequently it took me quite a long time to finish.
It wasn’t even exactly that it was a bad story. It just took a long time to get to a point in the story where I was interested. Generally speaking I found the background story the most interesting, but that story didn’t really pick up until the war started, and more so after the war. In ways I found the most interesting parts were over a little quickly. One particular example is when Augustin is telling part of his story to Safta. It felt like a rather sketchy version of a story which would have interested me. It seemed like there could be a big story there, but because it was told through Augustin’s pictures we only got the outline. The nature of the story didn’t really make this needed. I can see wanting to take time to reveal the story. I can even see why Harding gave such a basic version. I just didn’t like it!
The Painter of Silence was on the shortlist for The Woman’s Prize for Fiction (formally The Orange Prize) last year, and I can see why. It has a style of writing which tends to be popular with literary prizes
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me your link in comments and I will add it here