Clapham Library reading group were more or less in agreement with this quote from The Guardian: “It’s a severely competent novel. The craftsmanship is solid, the sincerity of feeling is sustained to the end; none of it is exceptional. Yet who would bet against it selling a million copies like its predecessor, The Miniaturist?”
In the summer of 1967 a young woman recently arrived from Trinidad, Odelle Bastien, applies for a job at the Skelton Institute, a discreetly upmarket gallery in St James’s. The Skelton’s eccentric co-director, Marjorie Quick, spots the young woman’s potential and offers her £10 a week as a typist – riches! Odelle meets Lawrie, who has inherited a painting he thinks might be valuable. At the Skelton they’re very interested, though on glimpsing the picture Miss Quick looks as though she’s seen a ghost.
Apart from some unlikely scenarios and coincidences, some rather inelegant prose and language that didn’t fit the era, the general consensus was that it was ‘An enjoyable read, twists and turns, drama and intrigue, a mystery to solve’.
The mystery of the painting’s provenance is by degrees unveiled in the novel’s other timeframe, southern Spain in 1936, and the discovery of a duplicitous act.
Sara, Clapham Library Book group