Thursday, 25 April 2013

Painter of Silence - Georgina Harding

What a different kind of read this one was. A book where one of the two main characters cannot hear, cannot speak, and cannot read sign language of any kind;  he can only process what he sees.  And what he sees, from childhood, is his mother cooking for the family in the big house, the horses in the stables, the trees in the woods, and his friend Safta, daughter of the big house.   He is Augustin, and his life is odd but sheltered and mostly good.  There are exceptions to this of course, when Safta's mother, for example decides that he can be educated with her children up at the house.  He doesn't take to the German tutor, who dislikes this silent child intensely.  But he continues to do what he has always done - he draws what he sees - and these drawings are his history.
The story is told in reverse for a chunk of the book, with Augustin turning up on the steps of a hospital in Iasi, Romania in the early 1950s.  We don't know it yet, but he is Augustin, and he has come to the city searching for Safta.  
As readers of my blog may know, I do like truth woven with fiction.  From this book I found out how difficult life was for the peoples of eastern bloc countries to exist after WW2 with Stalin's communism reaching out and destroying all that had gone before. Georgina Harding writes beautifully.  This is especially difficult when one of the main characters will never say a word.    But she has got into his head, and we know who he is and what his thoughts are.