Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands is a quirkily feel-good novel about a woman who breaks out of the narrow world of her Jewish community to invent a new role for herself in London’s heady art scene during the 1960s. And it all begins when Juliet Montague steps out on her birthday to buy for her family a much needed refrigerator.

Juliet is an aguna, a Jewish term for a woman whose husband has left her, and by definition that makes her a subject of pity among her neighbours. But Juliet also has a hidden talent – she has a feeling for art and when she sees a good picture she gets ‘that tingle’. Somehow, instead of buying a fridge, she finds herself asking a young artist to paint her picture.

Charlie is one of a new breed of painters, and his middle class background is quite different from Juliet’s, but the two make an effective team when they set up the Wednesday Gallery. Juliet sells pictures by Charlie’s friends, including Max, an older artist who paints figurative pictures featuring birds.

How Juliet comes to meet Max, and their burgeoning relationship drives much of the plot, each chapter written around a new portrait of Juliet. She is a terrific character and in spite of a tendency to break the mould, she is neither daring nor driven by ideology, but just seems to go with her instinct. Her Jewish background gives the novel plenty of colour and the setting of post-war Britain adds perspective and depth.

If you like art and heart-warming novels such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or Mr Pettigrew’s Last Stand, this could be the book for you.

Posted by JAM

No comments:

Post a Comment