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The Unfinished Novel and Other Storiesby Valerie Martin
Synopses & Reviews
In this vital and heartbreaking collection of stories, Valerie Martin, the bestselling author of Mary Reilly and the internationally acclaimed Property, turns an unflinching eye upon artists — driven and blocked, desired and detested, infamous and sublime, as they struggle beneath the tyranny of Art to reconcile their audience with their muse.
A painter who owes his small success to a man he despises, discovers that his passivity has cost him the love that might have set him free. A writer of modest talents encounters the old love who once betrayed him; now she repels him, yet the unfinished novel she leaves in his hands may surpass anything he could ever produce himself. An American poet in Rome finds herself forced to choose between her lover and a world so alien it takes her voice away. A print maker, who has reached a certain age, enters so deeply into the magical world of her imagination that she can never find her way back. In captivating, luminous prose, Martin explores the trials and rewards of human relationships and creative endeavor with all the ease and insight of a writer at the top of her form.
"Each piece in this suspenseful and piercingly acute collection traces an artist's struggles for excellence and public acclaim, and how those struggles crosscut with relationships that support and undo art. The title story is told by a moderately successful writer who receives the unwanted gift of a very promising manuscript from a former flame who brutally betrayed him. The narrator of 'His Blue Period' is a painter who owes his small bit of fame to an egomaniacal former friend; he describes the romantic dramas of their bohemian days, and their consequences. The heartbreakingly fatalistic 'The Bower' takes place on a smaller stage: a small college's married drama coach falls for the charismatic student playing Hamlet, but, like Hamlet, everyone's helpless to act. The final story, 'The Change,' is the most uncanny: a gifted printmaker's husband puts her changing moods down to menopause, but the story's end suggests a much stranger source. Martin's final-page twists create an O. Henryesque poignancy, and these unexpected shifts of perspective tend to increase the stories' emotional heft rather than make for cute denouement. Compulsively readable and impressively perceptive, Martin's stories put art's dark compromises in sharp relief." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Martin explores (and frequently explodes) in these adroit and perceptive stories." New York Times
"Martin's prose throughout the book has a cut-glass clarity, a drolly macabre humor, and a feline suppleness of insight, with perspectives ever shifting and characters always surprising you." Seattle Times
"[A] carefully assembled waxworks collection of artists...who, accidentally and purposefully, make the lives of those around them hellishly miserable." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Valerie Martin is the author of two collections of short fiction and seven novels, including Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, Mary Reilly, and Property, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction; and Salvation, a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. A native of New Orleans, Martin now lives in Millbrook, New York.
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