#Blogblast Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangel Translated by Jessica Moore #MaylisdeKerangal @MaclehosePress @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11 #PaintingTime

A highly original coming-of-age story: an atmospheric and aesthetic portrayal of love, art and craftsmanship told through the story of a young decorative painter Kerangal’s novels sell hundreds of thousands of copies in her native France. Painting Time has so far sold over 135k copies there. 13 translation deals across the world have been agreed.

Behind the ornate doors of 30, rue du Métal in Brussels, twenty students begin their apprenticeship in the art of decorative painting – that art of tricksters and counterfeiters, where each knot in a plank of wood hides a secret and every vein in a slab of marble tells a story.
Among these students are Kate, Jonas and Paula Karst. Together, during a relentless year of study, they will learn the techniques of reproducing materials in paint, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and the intensity of their experience – the long hours in the studio, the late nights, the conversations, arguments, parties, romances – will cement a friendship that lasts long after their formal studies end.
For Paula, her initiation into the art of trompe l’œil will take her back through time, from her own childhood memories, to the ancient formations of the materials whose depiction she strives to master. And from the institute in Brussels where her studies begin, to her work on the film sets of Cinecittà, and finally the caves of Lascaux, her experiences will transcend art, gradually revealing something of her own inner world, and the secret, unspoken, unreachable desires of her heart

My Review

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Painting Time but once I began I knew I was in for a veritable treat.

Let’s start with the narrative, so beautifully descriptive, the world of trompe l’oeil a world I have never encountered. It was utterly fascinating to read of the techniques, the intricate detail and enrapt focus of Paula, Kate and Jonas as they attempted to replicate, to capture what went before. My absolute favourite had to be the caves of Lascaux, the history enthralling the cave paintings tantalisingly vivid.

How might you ask did the author connect the art of trompe l’oil to Paula’s past and present life. The answer lay in the actual art form itself, as Paula became more and more immersed, the peeling back of the art synched perfectly with the peeling back of her childhood memories. An awkward girl who never seemed to fit in and that appeared to carry on in her adult life. Each job she undertook felt like a coat she tried on, one that never fit, never felt comfortable. Her relationships with others were the same, transient, short lived never matching expectation, or quite the fit for Paula, her personality and her life.

Jonas and Kate hovered in the background, their lives different but was their life any better than what Paula had? I loved the special bond she shared with Jonas, was it love, unrequited love, did a future loom in the distance?

It wasn’t until the latter part of the novel, the author sending Paula to Lascaux, that a sense of fulfilment, of finding that match and a belonging began to take shape. Terrorism reared it’s head, the attack on illustrators forced a reassessment, an opportunity to be honest and open and a glimpse of a future left you feeling content and satisfied.

The magic of Painting Time was Kerangel’s narrative skill, the sublime and vivid way in which she described that art, the technique. It was her ability to weave it seamlessly into Paula’s self discovery and development that was the genius stroke and one that made reading an absolute joy and pleasure.

I would like to thank Maclehose for a copy of Painting Time to read and review and to Milly Reid for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blog blast.

About the author

See the source image

MAYLIS DE KERANGAL spent her childhood in Le Havre, France. Her novel, Birth of a Bridge (MacLehose, 2015), was the winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Médicis in 2010. In 2014, her fifth novel, Mend the Living, was published to wide acclaim in France, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and the student choice novel of the year from France Culture and Télèrama. In the UK, Mend the Living was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2016, and won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017 – only the second novel and the first work in translation ever to do so.

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