Ten­der por­trait of loss spans the cen­turies

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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-

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