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What I Loved

by Siri Hustvedt

An intriguing book. At first I thought it was a straightforward love story but it unfolds into much more. The subtlety with which the painting is described in the excerpt is at the core of the whole book as it develops from a simple love story to a nail biting thriller! It is like climbing onto a roller coaster!

Extract

I first saw the painting Violet was writing about twent-five years ago in a gallery on Prince Street in SoHo. I didn't know either Bill or Violet at the time. Most of the canvases in the group show were thin minimalist works that didn't interest me. Bill's painting hung alone on a wall. It was a large picture, about six feet high and eight feet long, that showed a young woman lying on the floor in an empty room. She was propped up on one elbow, and she seemed to be looking at something beyond the edge of the painting. Brilliant light streamed into the room from that side of the canvas and illuminated her face and chest. Her right hand was resting on her pubic bone, and when I moved closer, I saw that she was holding a little taxi in that hand - a miniature version of the ubiquitous yellow cab that moves up and down the streets of New York. It took me about a minute to understand that there were actually three people in the painting. Far to my right, on the dark side of the canvas, I noticed that a woman was leaving the picture. Only her foot and ankle could be seen inside the frame, but the loafer she was wearing had been rendered with excruciationg care, and once I had seen it, I kept looking back at it. The invisible woman bacame as important as the one whodominated the canvas. The third person was only a shadow. For a moment I mistook the shadow for my own, but then I understood that the artist had included it in his work. The beautiful woman, who was wearing only a man's T-shirt, was being looked at by someone outside the painting, a spectator who seemed to be standing just where I was standing when I noticed the darkness that fell over her belly and her thighs.

Parallels

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt
 

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