From the blurb:
A forbidden love, a life-long secret, and one chance to make the right decision.
Ella has always been an artist, jotting down pictures from a young age, and now in her thirties she has made it her profession. Commissioned to capture memories, fading beauty and family moments, her sitters often reveal more about themselves than merely their outward appearance.
When Ella’s younger sister Chloe asks her to paint a portrait of her new fiancé Nate, Ella is reluctant. He is a brash American who Ella thinks has proposed far too fast, so the thought of spending many hours alone with him fills her with dread. But before long Ella realises there is more to Nate than meets the eye.
Beautifully inter-weaving the stories of Ella’s sitters – from the old lady with a wartime secret, to the handsome politician who has a confession to make – with Ella’s own hunt for her real father and slow realization that she is falling in love with the wrong man, Isabel Wolff delivers a mesmerizing story that delivers a powerful emotional punch.
A truly unforgettable portrait of the many aspects of love.
I bought this book because I was attracted to the blurb – in my own book, Burning Embers, the hero, Rafe, paints portraits of the heroine, Coral, and I loved exploring in my own writing how art can express and heighten emotional connections.
The Very Picture of You is a thought-provoking collage of interconnecting romantic stories centred on portrait painter Ella, set in contemporary London. Brought up to believe that she and her mother had been abandoned by her father at a young age, Ella is scarred and unable to overcome her distrust of men. Told entirely from Ella’s point of view, the story documents the loves and lives of a range of characters whose only apparent link is that they have commissioned her to paint for them. Despite this, each story has an impact upon Ella, challenging her viewpoints and causing her to look critically at her own life story and future.
… a competent portrait just catches a likeness and a good portrait reveals aspects of the sitter’s character. But a great portrait will show something about the sitter that they didn’t even know themselves.
Ella is forced to confront the truth behind long-standing family secrets — her parent’s long-past relationship was much more complicated than she has been led to believe, with implications for Ella’s future. In addition, Ella finds herself torn when she falls for Nate, the fiancé of her half-sister, after she is asked to paint him.
I felt a burst of anger with Chloë: in asking me to paint Nate she had, albeit unwittingly, put before me a feast that I could never touch. I felt like Tantalus, neck-deep in water that he could never drink, grasping at fruit that was always just out of reach.
As her sister and Nate’s wedding day looms events crescendo with an unexpected twist.
Isabel Wolff has an excellent writing style; the book flows seamlessly between stories and the reader is never abandoned as sub-plots twist and weave. The contrasting character back stories keep the reader engaged and the overlap ensures that this book is difficult to put down. Isabel’s use of emotion within descriptive passages gives real insight into how it feels to be Ella as she struggles with her emotions and attitudes towards both Nate and her family. The reader develops a genuine liking for the character and a real desire for her future happiness.
Overall, this is a truly enjoyable and fulfilling book, and I hope that Isabel Wolff will revisit Ella’s character in the future.
The Very Picture of You is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.