Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. 2009.
The Bellini Madonna is the mysterious tale of a lost painting and the sad story of a lost man. It is told from the viewpoint of Thomas Lynch, a recently fired art history professor. His quest to find the lost Bellini takes him on a psychologically manipulative journey that leaves him broken.
What prevented me from fully engaging in this book was the language. It felt overly intellectual and slightly pompous at times and, as a result, unnatural. It fits Thomas Lynch's arrogant art historian character, which kept me reading, but it felt overdone to me. A few turns of phrase to illustrate my point...
"...an unexpected tertium quid..."
"...the violent bifurcation of my perception."
"...the temptation to depart from strict verisimilitude and to force the pattern of my confession..."
Despite this, Lowry succeeds in translating the psychological and physical weaknesses of Lynch and the characters he encounters beautifully. She deftly moves the reader between the present and the past as she communicates the history of the painting and the family that owns it. If you can focus on these triumphs and move past the affected, pretentious language, I believe The Bellini Madonna is worth reading.