Sunday, 1 July 2012

Pictures at an Exhibition - Camilla Macpherson

Today’s a welcome day for any bookseller, retailer or publisher as it’s the weekend after payday and there’s always a reassuring rise in sales around this weekend. A large heap of padded envelopes stuffed with books waits for me to walk up to the post office tomorrow. I’d go to the post box now, only it’s raining and the post won’t be collected until tomorrow in any case.

I’ve also read a wonderful book this week and wanted to blog about it and recommend it to all friends, online and offline. I borrowed this from the library, but will buy my own copy just as soon as Waterstone’s reopens on Monday. Pictures at an Exhibition attracted me simply because of its title – I love Mussorgsky – and the cover showing the National Gallery in flattering morning light. It’s one of those split-time tales, so shared between a contemporary marriage in crisis and a series of letters written by one cousin to another during the Second World War discussing the single pictures brought back to the National Gallery for display during 1942. I don’t know much about Camilla Macpherson other than the blurb and her beautiful website, but am very impressed by her first novel and eager to read more by her. This is a book that attracts just as much on the second reading as details of the Tower of London moat being filled in and used to grow sprouts as mention of the delicious cakes in the Peyton and Byrne café, never mind a plot that draws you in and holds you there. 

Have a read of an extract and just be drawn in to this fantastic story.

I've got myself a new project, to cheer myself up a bit, and that’s really why I’m writing. It has absolutely nothing to do with the war effort – and thank heaven, that’s what I say. We're completely starved of art in London these days. Anything decent was stashed away by the authorities years ago, and I suppose one can’t blame them. It’s one thing for civilians to get themselves killed but quite another for the nation’s treasures to be blown to smithereens. Still, there’s been a lot of muttering about it recently – letters to The Times no less! – because everyone is simply longing for something to take their minds off this war madness (it’s not just me) and it doesn’t seem fair any more to hide all the good stuff away. We haven’t had a really bad raid in London for months and months. What’s been decided is that the National Gallery is going to dust off one masterpiece each month, put it on display, and allow us masses to trail in front of it. It’s meant to be good for morale (like everything else). Well, to hell with morale, I just want to see something that isn’t brown, khaki or camouflage green.

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