Sunday, April 26

Book Review: The Underpainter

Title: The Underpainter

Author: Jane Urquhart

Pages: 340

Summary: The Underpainter is a novel of interwoven lives in which the world of art collides with the realm of human emotion. It is the story of Austin Fraser, an American painter now in his later years, who is haunted by memories of those whose lives most deeply touched his own, including a young Canadian soldier and china painter and the beautiful model who becomes Austin’s mistress. Spanning decades, the setting moves from upstate New York to the northern shores of two Great Lakes; from France in World War One to New York City in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Brilliantly depicting landscape and the geography of the imagination, The Underpainter is Jane Urquhart’s most accomplished novel to date

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: A beautiful and compelling style, the story drew me in from page one. It was hard to put down, due to the authors wonderful ability to paint the story for you. The pages and descriptions were filled with deep emotions from the characters, and even though the main character, who was also the narrator, was made to be unlikeable, you still felt sorry for him, at the same time. He came across selfish, and disrespectful to those around him, but you were also able to see an lonely old man who lost the ones he cared about, and perhaps never knew how to show them how he love them, remember his and their lives together. The story moved along slowly, but it was still a wonderful read, as we were taken through the scenes as if the painter was there to paint the picture for us. Urquhart has a beautiful ability to make her emotions appear to be real pictures, and with a painter as the main character, she really made her words and emotions come alive. Here’s an example from the book to show you what I mean;
“There is always a moment of wholeness, recollected when the world is torn, raw-edged, broken apart, a moment when the tidiness, the innocence of landscape - sometimes of the society that created the landscape - allows you to predict with accuracy the discord to come. ”
The last fifty pages were truly emotional and lovely. I don’t want to go into it any further, so I don’t spoil anything for you, but it was wonderfully done and addressed, and in the end, I understood the protagonist, he is a lonely man and despite his qualities, has an interesting perspective on the world around him. A truly talented author, I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Would I recommend it to read: Highly recommend this book to read. It’s a beautiful story by a very talented author. (Canadian Author, which is an added bonus for me, I love seeing local talent). Some won’t like the slow pace of the novel, but if you enjoy stories that dig deep into the lives of the characters and explore into their lives, emotions, then this is a book for you.

What to read next: This novel has made me want to explore more books by the author. So some other titles by her are; Away, A Map of Glass, The Stone Carvers. To name a few. Also Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2009 Support Your Library Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
New Author Challenge


  1. This book sounds quite amazing! You did a great job expressing your enthusiasm for this read.

  2. Thank you! It is a fabulous back. I think I may have to get it for my self to own. It's one of those books I'll try to force on my friends :)