Ghost Portrait

Ghost Portrait

by Gregory Norminton

Living out his last days in rural Kent in 1680, the celebrated painter Nathaniel Deller bargains with his former pupil William Stroud - if he will complete Nathaniel's portrait of his beloved, long dead wife, William may claim their daughter Cynthia.

  • Category: Uncategorized
  • Rating: 3.55
  • Publish Date: March 1st 2006 by Sceptre
  • Isbn10: 0340834668
  • Isbn13: 9780340834664

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Published in the Book Review newspaper KNIZHNAYA VITRINA in October 2006 Elena Ksrpos-Dedukhina: What does the term historical novelist mean to you? Gregory Norminton: The historical novel is, more than anything, a marketing term. I have written two novels set in the historical past: Arts and Wonders and Ghost Portrait. My current project is set in contemporary Britain, while a future novel (if I ever manage to write it) imagines a trip into outer space. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: You said in one of your interviews that getting reviews for fiction is becoming increasingly difficult. Does it mean that the art of criticism is generally disappearing or that you personally lack attention towards your work? Gregory Norminton:: The sale of a book is to a large degree determined by the number of reviews it receives. The majority of writers in Britain work in relative or total obscurity, and the sheer volume of books published annually ensures that only a minority will see their work reviewed. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: In your first novel, The Ship of Fools, you offer your own interpretation of the famous Bosch painting, whereas in Ghost Portrait the narration itself offers such vivid descriptions of Nature (mainly) that one might assume you are a landscape painter at heart yourself. Gregory Norminton: I had been working on a comic novel set on an American campus at the height of the present Bush administration. After working on the project for about nine months, however, it became quite obvious that, though I had a setting, I did not have a novel. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: Increasingly, you have written, short stories are where my enthusiasm lies, both as reader and writer. Gregory Norminton: I wonder at the decline of the short story in Britain, for it seems to me the perfect narrative form for our age: a fictional package fully digestible in one sitting. Producing a novel consumes vast amounts of time and anxiety; so writing a short story can seem, at best, a sort of working holiday. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: Could you name the authors and books you have recently read? Recently, having moved to Scotland, I have been reading contemporary Scottish writers such as James Kelman, A.L. Kennedy and the great, eccentric visionary Alasdair Gray, whose novel Lanark I cannot recommend too highly. I read books on natural history and the environment, works of history (often following particular obsessions: last year, the Soviet gulags, this year the disgraceful conduct of the West in the Middle East) and quite a lot of poetry. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: Do you normally attend book festivals? Gregory Norminton: I would love to attend more book festivals: its the frustrated actor in me. I do occasionally go as an audience member (living in Edinburgh enables me to attend the Book Festival in August) but must confess that, unless the writer has a real talent for reading her work, I often end up regretting the experience. Elena Karpos-Dedukhina: You took part in all kinds of projects for the television series, Planet Action. Gregory Norminton: Planet Action is a six-part television series, broadcast around the world on the Animal Planet channel, in which seven volunteers travel to different, tropical locations to work on conservation projects with the WWF. Copyright Elena Karpos-Dedukhina 2006 Copyright Gregory Norminton 2006

I enjoyed reading about Cynthia and the heavily pregnant wife of the painter -Belinda, whose portrait the story revolves around when Nathaniel The Painter: asks his Student: William if he would continue his portrait after his death, in return for Nathaniel's Daughter Cynthia. Reading about Cynthia helped me determine the story and let me breathe through the sometimes heavy passages of old historical language that I, as a modern day reader have never heard of, nor thought of learning. For a diverse read in a different style I would suggest picking up this book and giving it a go.

If William finishes it, Nathaniel indicates that William may once again look with love and win Nathaniel's daughter Cynthia (who lives with and cares for her father, trapped in the dark and stern household.) Interwoven are stories from two other time periods of Deller's life-- The night of Charles ll's return from exile in 1660, when Deller is accused by his former friend Thomas Digby of betraying their ideals and 10 years earlier just after Charles l's execution when the young Deller had joined a political group too radical even for the Roundheads. I admit that the concept most fascinating was of Deller guiding Stroud how to complete the painting of a subject he could see so clearly in his head that Stroud had never seen.