Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (2016)

Some books got it and some books ain't got it. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay is the latter.

It felt like I started reading one novel and ended up finishing a completely different one. There was no cohesive whole, just bits and pieces that never matched up together. I was expecting a story of an art restorer and ended up in a whirlwind romance where the heroine (and you wouldn't believe how easy it is to forget her name is Emily despite the title because of how few characters actually use her name) falls in love with an Italian chef and in two weeks has given up her Americanized life and moved to Tuscany so he can help run his family's restaurant.

This one really disappointed me. I was hoping for something poignant and genuine like in Lizzy & Jane or for something magical and literary like in The Bronte Plot. Instead, I'm following a heroine who magically transforms her art from mediocre to magnificent simply by moving to Italy. None of it matched, and if that wasn't disappointing enough, any important conversations and scenes that the reader should have been privy to were referred to instead of experienced. Emily mentions that she had this conversation or was sitting with this person or experiencing that thing, but we weren't there to experience it with her. It's the worse kind of telling instead of showing.

My usual complaint of Ms. Reay's books remains the same; there isn't enough faith in this story to make it anything other than a clean read instead of a Christian one. Ben and Emily fall in love in just two weeks and never once do they express their faith to one another. Ben could have been marrying an atheist for all he knew, which would have gone off real well in his devoutly Catholic family, I'm sure.

While I may not have been overly fond of Dear Mr. Knightley because I don't care for epistolary novels, I would happily give it a re-read before ever again picking up A Portrait of Emily Price. I know that Ms. Reay loves classic literature and tries to imbue her work with it. In this last novel, she failed. Sure, there's a couple of mentions of a book by James Joyce called A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but I'm curious as to how many of her readers have picked up Joyce's tome? I know that I never have, but I have read Austen and Bronte. No more obscure reads, please, otherwise the magic of Ms. Reay as an anglophile may just fade.

The next book on her docket is The Austen Escape (releasing November 7, 2017) and I can only hope it's a vast improvement from A Portrait of Emily Price.

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