My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 5 days (dipping in and out as I was working a lot)
Publisher - HarperFiction
Blurb From Goodreads
Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.
Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.
The story opens in 1963 with Alice, her sister Natalie and their parents on holiday and the introduction of Thomas Bayer. A young painter, twice Alice's age with a talent, he offers to sketch the family and Alice finds herself drawn to his company. The story then goes into the next chapter and opens at 2007 and Dennis Finch has been summoned by Thomas Bayer. A brief explanation of how their relationship came to be is covered and what Thomas expects of Finch now. Thomas is a hugely successful artist that stopped painting at the top of his game and became a recluse. Finch has known and cataloged all of his work and now Thomas tells him of a piece no one has saw or known about. If it is true it will be worth a fortune but Finch needs to track it down along with Stephen whom Thomas has asked for to personally verify it is indeed his work. The story then flicks back and forth between Alice, the past, Alice now and the journey between Finch and Stephen as they try to recover the art that will change all of their lives if they are successful.
This book was fairly slow to start I felt although there is enough to keep you interested until it builds up. Alice loves birds and even goes on to study them which leads to lots of bird discussion or reference in the book, I found myself going off and looking up a few of them. Stephen verifys and authenticates works of art and the process of this is also discussed in quite a bit of detail which again I found quite interesting as it isn't something I have ever considered. The time scale at some of the chapters is quite specific but a lot is lost in between so you have to figure yourself how much time has lapsed since one event to another. I felt some scenes where missed which I personally would have liked to have read, for example Alice goes off to meet someone. She introduces herself and the chapter ends, then when we are back with them they are already chatting and established communication whereas I would have loved to have picked up right after the introduction. They say an author is doing their job right when they leave you wanting more and I definitely would have liked more insight into scenes like that. Sorry to be a tad vague but I hate spoilers.
There is a lot of secrets, or information purposefully withheld throughout the story however as the tale unravels the mysteries are revealed but just a little slow and jumbled for me. When something is highlighted that happened but only mentioned then the story moves on, I find this frustrating however it is a smart move by the author. By doing this it guarantees I will not put the book down as I have to find out what happened to the character.
Overall, for a first book I think the author has done very well. The characters were brought to life quite well and the character Natalie evoked quite a strong reaction from me, I really disliked her. There are many layers to this story and it covers quite a lot of ground, secrets, betrayal, family, and love to name but a few. There is no bad language, that I can recall and for people who like a slow burner with depth I think they will really enjoy this. I would read this author again, this time it is a 3/5 for me. Thanks so much to HarperFiction for giving me an ARC and introducing me to a new author. This book is available from the 15th of August 2013, in paperback £7.99 or Ebook for £5.99.