Pictures of You by Jane Elmor
|Pictures of You by Jane Elmor|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Three different women, three generations, three different approaches to motherhood: well-written and thought-provoking, if a little forced at the end.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 330||Date: July 2009|
This is the story of Luna, who is an artist. It's also the story of Angie, her mother, and - to a lesser degree - it's about Nat, a teenage single mother in horrendous circumstances.
It begins when Luna and Angie attend the funeral of Luna's long-estranged father in 2003. Or rather, the story actually begins when Luna and her boyfriend Pierre are making love in a cupboard under the stairs just after the funeral. And the book itself starts with a prologue, set six years later, when an unnamed man (with wife and two children in tow) spots an unnamed woman in an art gallery, and thinks back to a lifetime of loving her.
Confused? Yes, I was too. And not at all sure what to expect.
It soon transpires that Luna is a likeable person, and most of the book is about her growth as an artist, and as a woman. Meeting some long-lost relatives, she has a sudden hankering for security, and particularly for children of her own. She also becomes very angry with her mother, who always told her that her father was a scoundrel and that they were better off without him. Yet the comments from his friends and relatives make him sound a pleasant man, and when she sees some of his photographs, she feels that she lost out by not knowing him.
The plot alternates between Luna's viewpoint and Angie's, cleverly intertwined so that we see how some of Luna's misconceptions about her mother developed. We also get a fascinating - and somewhat erotic - insight into the free-love commune in which Angie spent many of her young adult years, and where Luna was born. At the same time as the contrast between these two women - Angie determined that her daughter should be free, creative and unrestrained; Luna longing for security and motherhood - there's a developing contrast between Luna's relationship with the bohemian, selfish and rather irresponsible Pierre, and a growing friendship with Jon, another artist who seems far more responsible, caring and full of insight.
And then there's Nat. Her sections of the book are short - just a few pages each time - and a stark contrast to the rest of the novel. I found myself wondering where they fit in; she appears to have no connection at all to either Luna or Angie. She also appears to be a remarkably irresponsible young woman, who spends much of her time neglecting her children, chain-smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. Towards the end of the book a tenuous connection is established, leading to what felt to me like an over-dramatic and somewhat forced ending. I felt that the book would have been more enjoyable without Nat... and yet, her story will probably remain with me longer than the rest.
I liked both Luna's and Angie's characters, but was less impressed by Pierre and Jon and Luna's attitudes to them, which kept changing as her circumstances changed. And while I felt sorry for Nat, I also found her frustrating and irritating. The ending as a whole didn't feel believable; it tied together several threads and brought resolution, but didn't seem realistic.
The writing is very good, on the whole, spoiled only by an excess of one particular swear word which appears not only from Nat and her unpleasant acquaintances but scattered throughout the book far too often to be effective. The artistic imagery works well, too; before each main section of the book is a description of a painting, gradually building up with more detail each time, until we realise exactly what the painting is. The unfolding of the truth behind Luna's childhood is very well done, even if the eventual resolution is a bit over-dramatic. And the mysterious prologue - which I'd forgotten about by the time I came to the end - was mirrored in an epilogue that brought the book to its conclusion.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Many thanks to the publishers for sending this book.
If you like this kind of book, I'd recommend Pandora's Box by Giselle Green for a different take on mother-daughter relationships, or Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze, which features a different kind of spiritual community.
You can read more book reviews or buy Pictures of You by Jane Elmor at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Pictures of You by Jane Elmor at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.