Cézanne, the artist, holds together the strands of multiple narratives in this ambitious debut novel.
Perhaps, a little too ambitious. There’s a lot of competing voices in the book: artists, businessmen, actors, directors. Keeping up with everyone as we flip-flop through the narrative can be quite exhausting.
The art of Cézanne provides the love and losses that are the central themes for the novel. A son’s love for his dying father, love between the director and his principle actor, peace for a struggling artist.
But there is a payoff to all this effort. Langan’s ability to describe is beautiful. Whatever it may be, sounds, sex, sights, Langan is able to take us there. “[T]he only sounds the pencils whispering against the paper.” Whether we are in the world of Paul Cézanne, in 1868 Paris, or a Liverpudlian film director in 2008, the reader is transported to that world through vivid description.
There are, maybe, one or two too many voices in this cleverly interwoven tale. Keeping track of the different strands as a film of Cézanne’s life gets made: the artist, the financier, the actor and director. The leaps between times and voices a little confusing at times especially if we haven’t heard that voice for a while.
For me, the description easily rescues the complex layering of the plot. If nothing else, read this beautiful passages of description and a lesson in tying together many, many strands.
Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.
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