Speculative Fiction about the Disappearance of Miro’s The Reaper
I usually like to start my book reviews with a little tease about the first eighth or quarter of the book plot and characters. This particular book does not lend itself to that kind of a review. It is comprised of two separate parts, one that takes place in the 1930s at the Paris World’s Fair (in part) while the larger second half takes place in 2009 and 2012. A prologue introduces us to the painter Joan Miro as he is finishing up his masterwork The Reaper.
The 1930s portion of the book is firmly set in Paris against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and the looming world war that is to come. The author meticulously researched both the exhibitions at the World’s Fair and the greater world beyond it. Ernest Hemingway even shows up. The painting mysteriously disappears at the end of the exhibition; this is a historical fact, and the painting is still missing to this day. The 2000 portion of the book revolves around a mother and her estranged son. The son is an artist who makes good reproductions of paintings for use in private homes or businesses. A stranger approaches him with the desire for a reproduction of The Reaper, for which he will pay a large sum. It turns out that this is at his mother’s behest as a way to make amends to her son.
So much goes on in both halves of this book. In the 1930s portion, I can imagine myself in the exhibition hall and other places described. The author pays good attention to the details about these historic places and facts.
Unfortunately, the book felt a little overwritten to me. An excess of adjectives and adverbs cluttered of the work, sometimes giving strange juxtapositions like *vapid feel* when describing a room. I found myself wondering if the book would have been better served by being organized differently. The two halves of the book seem so separate from each other that I wonder if it would have worked better to interleave the two plot lines together, alternating every chapter or small section, like the movie about the Klimt painting, Woman in Gold.