Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman


The Gravity of Birds
by Tracy Guzeman
Simon and Schuster, 2013
398 pages
source: purchased e-book

Summary (from Booklist):
Legendary artist Thomas Bayber calls reliable art historian Dennis Fincher and eccentric art authenticator Stephen Jameson to task them with an errand. Although Bayber stopped painting years ago, and his artwork has been extensively documented, he shows them a never-before-seen central panel in a triptych that depicts himself as a young man posed with two sisters, Alice and Natalie Kessler. What he wants Dennis and Stephen to find are the other two panels of the painting, which he gave to the sisters, who seem to have vanished without a trace in 1972. Their quest starts out inauspiciously, since Dennis refuses to fly, and Stephen doesn’t know how to drive, but before long, the two art aficionados become obsessed with finding the missing sisters and the missing panels even as they reveal their own grievous losses. Their narrative is interspersed with the story of the estranged Kessler sisters and their separate relationships with the brilliant if self-absorbed Bayber.

My thoughts:
I decided to take a chance on this debut author thanks to Darlene's review and a kindle daily deal... and I'm so glad I did!

For a second time this year, art played a key role in my reading. There are plenty of details in this novel about painting technique, the authentication process and insights into the business of art, and I found them fascinating. Birding figures into the plot, too, along with family relationships including, of course, deep dark secrets.

This is an ambitious and intricately plotted first novel.  A slow start was my only compliant, but in the end, my patience was amply rewarded. The Gravity of Birds may very well end up on my list of  2014 favorites.

Favorite Quotes:
"She'd come because this was where her past was happily captive, woven into the woods, sparkling off the surface of the lake. Her younger self still hid in the forest, deciphering the songs of birds, naming the stars in the night sky, half-listening for the reassuring call of her name by her parents, who laughed more and drank more and reminisced on the dock while dangling their pale legs in the cold, dark water. This was where she'd pushed her way through the thin paper skin of adolescence to feel the lovely stirrings of attraction, the polarized tugs of desire and insecurity." 
"You don't see the ugliness because you don't want to. That's the job of an artist: to make people look at things - not just at things, but at people and at places - in a way other than they normally would. To expose what's hidden below the surface." 
"How odd it was, all those years spent feeling old while she'd been young. And now that she couldn't be considered young anymore, not by anyone's standards, she didn't feel old. Instead, she felt like she'd finally caught up with herself and was exactly the age she was supposed to be." 
"But people always do things they hadn't intended to do. You're angry. You allow yourself the luxury of considering a horrible thought. You don't have any intention of acting on it, of course, but you've given it a home in your head. It burrows in, pays attention, waits for an opportunity. And in the moment when something requires a decision, it's right there, seeming just as viable as the saner option, the morally correct response. So you choose. And with one decision, you've become a different person capable of doing something so reprehensible, you convince yourself it's completely justified. Because why else would you be doing it? And if, no, when you start to doubt, you can't see your way back to making it right, so you just keep moving forward, making it wrong over and over again."
My rating:



Highly recommended

26 comments:

  1. A slow start is better than a slow ending, in my opinion. This sounds terrific to me!

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    1. Kathy - Definitely! This was a very enjoyable read.

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  2. I'm so glad to know you loved this one! I have a beautiful hardcover copy waiting for me.

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    1. Andi - I hope you like it as much as I did. I can't wait for her next novel!

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one too! Sometimes I worry that someone will hate something I recommend but each to his own right. I found the beginning a little difficult too but then I just found myself immersed in the novel. It was great on audio. Great quotes! There were just so many that I'd go back and listen to again. That's the only bad thing about audio - a little difficult to get the quotes. Lol.

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    1. Darlene - I know that feeling, lol! This was such a great book and I know I would have loved the audio version, too (Cassandra Campbell is a favorite), but the kindle daily deal was irresistible.

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  4. If your last two boooks (this one and the boys in the boat) were my books, I would say that neither one would have seemed like my cup of tea but when I had read them I was so glad that I had! That kind of lovely surprise is always wonderful.

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    1. Audrey - So true! Can't believe I've read so many excellent books this year and it's still only February... what a joy it's been to find these hidden gems.

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  5. JoAnn,
    This one sounds extremely promising. I will note it! I'm glad your winter reading is swimming along so well.
    Judith

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    1. Judith - The combination of beautiful writing and intricate plot thoroughly won me over! I will be anxiously awaiting her next novel.

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  6. I love art mysteries, and buried family secrets too - so the combination sounds wonderful. I'll put this on the post-TBR reading list. I don't read enough new authors either - I've been thinking about that. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Lisa - This certainly didn't seem like the work of a debut author. I can;t wait to see what she writes next. Hope you get a chance to read it after the TBR Dare :)

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  7. Did you read The Art Forger? That was another one that really got into the art aspect, which I surprisingly enjoyed. I am the furthest thing from artistic, but I guess that doesn't preclude me from learning a thing or two and enjoying it!

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    1. Sandy - No, I didn't read The Art Forger, but I seem to be on a roll with art in fiction lately!

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  8. I remember this quote......."How odd it was, all those years spent feeling old while she'd been young. And now that she couldn't be considered young anymore, not by anyone's standards, she didn't feel old. Instead, she felt like she'd finally caught up with herself and was exactly the age she was supposed to be." ............as I could relate to it:)

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    1. Diane - I could relate to that one, too!

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  9. I love to get debut novels a try, glad to know about the slow start. I've got this one on my stacks.

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    1. Nise' - Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  10. I'll happily put up with a slow start when the rest of the book is as good as this one sounds. The story sounds so interesting. I always like dark family secrets and suspicious circumstances. I also love that art factors into this story along with painting technique and more. There's so much for me in this one book, I definitely have to read it.. Thank you for including the passages from the bag. They provide a real flavor of the book and confirmed for me that I want to read

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    1. Amy - I have more patience for slow starts lately and was really reward this time. I don't have much knowledge of art (and possess even less talent), but that didn't hinder my enjoyment at all!

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  11. I've seen this on the new book shelves at my library dozens of times and it never really tempted me - now it does!

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    1. Anbolyn - Oh, I hope you get a chance to try it!

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  12. Okay, this is going on my wish list at the library. I love books about art and birding (my new hobby).

    >she felt like she'd finally caught up with herself and was exactly the age she was supposed to be

    I understand this! Thanks for including the quotes--definitely whetted my appetite and interest.

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    1. JaneGS - It's always a treat to find a great debut novel...sounds like this book would suit you perfectly!

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  13. I've been on the fence about this one. Good to know you loved it.

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    1. Stacy - Hope you decide to give it a shot!

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