While this lacked the page-turner suspense of The Historian, it also lacked The Historian’s let-down of an ending. This is only fair because it’s a very different story, and while there is some suspense, it’s never nail-biting, but rather comes from the way Kostova builds the story from various accounts, old letters, and one central narrator.
That central narrator – a psychiatrist who becomes personally involved in learning the history of a silent patient – was in fact my main problem with the story. I simply didn’t care as much about him as I did about the women in the story – a painter in 19th century France, the patient’s ex-wife, the patient’s ex-girlfriend, who were all much more compelling characters. The patient himself is largely seen through other characters’ perspectives, so he remains a little fascinating and enigmatic (and annoying, but in an interesting way). While I wanted to learn the answer to the riddle the psychiatrist was uncovering, I didn’t care if he ever learned the answer himself.
On a side note, the story was a little over-run with May-December romances and characters who took themselves much too seriously. On the other hand, it was a largely enjoyable novel-y novel, and I would recommend it to people who want that big fat novel experience with a little art and mystery thrown in for spice.
Source: public library