Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Lush Tale of the Occult, Art, and Love

Delphine Duplessi has a rare talent. Dating from the time as a child when she lost her sight, she is able to create shadow portraits. Drawing blindfolded, Delphine creates not the person’s face, but the secrets hiding behind the mask. In the world of Paris and New York after WWI, she becomes a celebrity. People are looking to the future, wanting amusement to forget the horrors of war.

After a devastating experience in New York where tragically a man dies, she returns to her native Cannes. Unable to paint she tries to recover from the horror of her New York experience and come to terms with the reason she left Paris five years ago.

Delphine has an unusual heritage. She is descended from LaLune, the artist who sold her soul to reclaim her dead lover. Now her female descendants are cursed being able to love only one man. Delphine finds that man in Mathieu, a bookbinder she falls in love with in Paris. Trying to help Mathieu escape his demons, she draws him, but sees herself as the instrument of his destruction, so she flees.

Now that she’s back in France, her twin, Sebastian, wants her to return to painting the lucrative portraits that make his gallery special. Delphine tries to avoid returning to the shadow portraits, but finally agrees to paint a chateau where an occult classic, the Book of Abraham, is supposedly hidden.

The descriptions in this book, from the glorious drawing rooms of Paris and New York, to the lovely countryside of southern France, are full of colors and beautiful shapes. It’s almost like reading a painting.

If you are interested in the occult, the author uses the background of the Cathars, and Delphine’s own family history to weave a spell around the story. The plot is complex full of twists and unusual, sometimes famous, characters. The time after WWI was when Picasso, the Fitzgeralds, and other celebrities were spending the summer in the south of France.

I enjoyed the characters. Mathieu is particularly delightful. Delphine is a well drawn character, but by the end of the book I was tired of hearing how she was protecting everyone, not realizing her own part in the reality of her interactions. Sebastian is a hard character to judge. I didn’t realize until the very end why I felt ambivalent about him.

I highly recommend this book if you love romance and beautiful descriptions.

I received this book from Atria for this review.