Tender portrait of loss spans the centuries
story forms the novel’s second strand. For Ellie it is an encounter that will change her life three times over, initially by driving her to produce a copy of such verisimilitude it is almost indistinguishable from the original; then later, after a brief affair with Marty, who has uncovered her part in the painting’s theft, by convincing her to leave behind forgery and become an academic; and finally, more than 40 years later, by setting these two phases of her life on a collision course when the two copies surface simultaneously during the preparation for a show about female painters of the Dutch Golden Age she is curating for the Art Gallery of NSW.
Yet while it is the relationship between the two versions of the painting and Marty and Ellie that is the engine of the novel, its true heart lies in the third strand, which tells the story of Sara’s decision to paint it as a way of remembering her lost daughter Kathrijn, and her subsequent disappearance from the historical record.
Although Sara’s story is fictional, the mysteries surrounding her life are not unusual: as Smith points out in a note to the reader, al-