25 February 2008

Book Banter -- The Painter of Battles

Title: The Painter of Battles
Author: Arturo Perez-Reverte
Genre: Literary fiction
Length: 210 pages
Plot Basics: For thirty years, Falques was a war photojournalist, winning international awards for his images from conflicts around the globe. Now, he had traded in his camera for paintbrushes and is painting a battle mural inside an old tower. One afternoon, a man whose photograph he took years before shows up and explains to Falques that the photo ruined his life and in retribution, is going to kill him. But before he does, the two men engage in a dialogue about war and art and what effects they have on observers and survivors.
Banter Points: Word Nerd was very excited for Perez-Reverte's latest novel. And this one is amazingly weighty for being only 200-odd pages long. Perez-Reverte, as usual, crafts poignant sentences within a plot that involves danger and risk and again peoples his book with protagonists that are flawed and human. Perez-Reverte also had an interesting technique for how he tagged dialogue that worked for this book, but in other places would have been wildly distracting.
Bummer Points: Having recently read "Love in the Time of Cholera," "The Painter of Battles" was a little bit too much poetic prose originally written in Spanish to come on its heels. On the other hand, that's probably backwards praise that it reminded Word Nerd of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Word Nerd was hoping for a more tense book like Perez-Reverte's "Queen of the South" or "Club Dumas" and was disappointed that this wasn't like that. Also, for non-art historians, the long sections about other famous war paintings fell flat because of the reader's unfamiliarity with the piece.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like books that get into philosophy, this is a good one. If you are looking for a Perez-Reverte title like "Captain Alatrise" or "Club Dumas," you'll likely be disappointed with "Painter of Battles" because it veers so sharply from his other styles.

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