Bantam, May 2003, 12.95
In 1662, bankrupt fifty-six year old painter Rembrandt van Rijn flees his creditors though it means leaving his home. He accidentally stows away on a ship bound for Hull, England, but is caught by the angry captain. Through passenger Andrew Marvell, who speaks Dutch, Captain Dahl commissions the artist to paint portraits to pay for his passage as van Rijn proclaims he is bankrupt
Rembrandt hates painting the captain, but looks forward to working on the man's wife, the beautiful Amelia. However, Marvell challenges Rembrandt to a duel of tributes in which he will use the might of the pen with a poem dedicated to the lovely Amelia while Rembrandt will use the might of the brush with a portrait of the gorgeous woman. Amelia will declare the winner.
When THE PAINTER concentrates on an insightful historical novel, the story line is brilliantly conceived and does justice to the artist even when the clever Amelia manipulates the two artists to do her bidding. When the story line switches plot to 2001 focusing on an artist descendant of Dahl, it seems more like a paint by numbers that never quite holds up in comparison. In spite of the average twenty first-century subplot taking up half the book, the seventeenth century story makes Will Davenport's novel a winner.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner