I imagine a bewildered Emile Zola wandering into the crowds populating that new phenomenon that took Paris merchandising in the 19th century by storm - mass production and the birth of the superstore. He enters through the widely opened arms of polished French doors, having to blink tearily at the brilliantly lit chandeliers. Immediately, he is choked by perfumed mists diffusing the air and is submerged in whispers of fine French lace and ribbons, rows of rainbowed textures and fabrics on display, corsets and lingerie accosting his libido. He raises his gaze to the vaulted ceiling and catches the shrewd eye of Octave Mouret, hovering watchfully at the balcony of the second floor and nods a gentlemanly greeting. With this brief upward glance, Zola becomes distracted, shuttled through the cogs of this enormous commercial machine, through its undulating channels, eventually misplacing his wife in the melée - the latter having spied a lady friend in the direction of the fine dresses salon, where time becomes lost and space is infinite.
This is The Ladies' Paradise: the department store where all the whimsies of a woman are catered to in one majestic place; where romance, excitement and fantasy materialize through the latest in fashionable outerwear and underwear, notions, potions, novelties, household goods and other en vogue excesses not wholly necessary for ordinary life, are sold. (Ok, it's Macy's on steroids on 'discount day'!).
Eleventh in Les Rougon-Macquart cycle, the novel is about modern consumerism and utopian fantasy, a 19th century rags- to-riches story. Denise Baudu is a humble and impoverished shopgirl who finds work in the flourishing department store, The Ladies' Paradise, trying to make ends meet to support her two brothers, but colliding with the worst of human flaws. The novel chronicles the struggle between the traditional shop, the Old Elbeuf (the declining establishment owned by Denise's uncle), and the monster department store owned by the innovative Octave Mouret. A habitual seducer of women, Mouret's own insatiable passion is to conquer the 'woman', to hold her at his mercy, to intoxicate her with unwavering attentiveness and manipulate her desires within his establishment. The art of the seduction is not in the boudoir but in the caresses of silk and lace finery found at the most efficient of merchandising mechanisms, with the unique ability to offer national brands at substantial reductions.
Zola is a mesmerist when describing the scene of the crowd which takes on a protagonist role of its own. He details economic reinvention and capitalism fueled by consumers' neurotic impulses to shop, the system of mass production and the consequences its development had in revolutionizing the retail industry, in a story decked out in illusion, seduction, luxury, romance, class division, obsession and greed.
Any criticism I might offer would be Zola's neglect in providing reasons for Denise's rise in the department - what merited such promotions? In the BBC series, a very sketchy interpretation of the novel by the way, Denise is shown as an astute, bright and quick thinking sales girl whose original ideas won her elevation in the store. In the novel, however, Denise remains a mousy innocent, extremely mindful of her virtue, afraid of her own shadow, promoted not by any skill of her own, it appears, but by Mouret's regret that her reputation was often tarnished by her peers; secondly, by his own desire to conquer her, which eventually, more deeply turns to love.
The Ladies' Paradise is one of Zola's lighter novels in Les Rougon-Macquart series, yet gives some pause for reflection, to take stock of one's wants, needs and their intrinsic values: truthfully speaking, what price is a lady's satisfaction?
Lonely is vision that leads man away
John Drinkwater, Lincoln
A published writer, accomplished journalist and teacher Friderike Maria Burger von Winternitz (1882-1971) wrote this part-autobiography, and part-biography of Stefan Zweig, to preserve her husband's extraordinary personality, to highlight the image of a man of worldwide fame who, nonetheless, appeared disassociated from ordinary life. I personally wanted to know more about the author whose work I highly admire, including the unique woman who stood in his shadow.
She was still married and had an infant daughter when she first noticed Stefan Zweig in 1908: a young poet and playwright with a bright future, just making his mark in the world. Their chance encounter four years later seemed like kismet to Friderike, who initiated and maintained a correspondence with Zweig thereafter, confessing that her marriage was suffering an early death. Friderike switched to third person narration in this section relating to their romance, strangely detaching herself to the borders of the memoir, inadvertently giving it the context of a work of fiction.
She admits in nearly imperceptible, self-aggrandizing tones of being a mediator of sorts, mending the rift between Zweig and his mother: "It seemed unnatural that Stefan should still remain critical and resentful of this deaf, old woman, thus robbing himself of the joy of having a mother. After being reunited through my efforts both became gentler and happier. For this she was ever grateful to me." Such suggestions were later contradicted by Zweig's brother, Alfred.
Zweig's entire works are thoroughly chronicled by Friderike in the book, adeptly catalogued by theme. She sheds some light on the famous author's contradictory personality ( an aspect of himself I felt he intentionally neglected in The World of Yesterday ); reviews his travels and significant friendships, describes his hardened work ethic, explains his obsessive collecting of famous literary and musical manuscripts; provides rationalizations for his pacifist stance on the escalating unrest that developed into full-out war around them: a detached viewpoint which many of his peers harshly criticized. "Zweig breathed the life of a monomaniac fully immersed within himself and ignoring a war that shook the world," who deeply felt "the confrontation of one still dwelling in peace with a world at war."
Friderike describes her primary role as one to assure the strict quiet the genius demanded, the "task to protect his security in everyday life and pacify his unrest. As guardian to his inner world, I was to keep the outer world away, pregnant as it always was with disturbances." She was his 'helpmeet', assisting in research, translations, letter writing; a companion and partner through his undeniable restlessness and wanderlust.
Sometimes his enormous fame and popularity overwhelmed him, invaded the solitude and quiet he required, encroached on his privacy and his work, leading to weariness, depression, outbursts of anger, abnormal attacks of over-excitability, fluctuating mood swings, irritability and increased smoking; referring to this as his sensitive emotional apparatus which she was usually able to assuage.
Friderike shows herself to be a rare wife, one entirely unselfish and enamored of her husband. Her description of their fairytale relationship holding court in their Salzburg 'castle', mixed with my personal belief in loyalty to the spouse, leaves me flummoxed when she overlooked his many indiscretions. It is perplexing to me that she turned a blind eye when she 'caught' Stefan and Lotte Altmann - the young secretary she hired - dreamily gazing, trance-like, at each other in their library.
Lotte's passiveness, silent, childlike adoration and devotion of an unpretentious girl were the qualities Zweig appraised in her. To the more exuberant first wife: "I found her somewhat too sober, a quality possibly due to her bad health"suggesting her chronic illness with asthma depreciated the tone of her entire life. Friderike was certain that the example of "this young girl driven by illness into an isolation without hope of marriage or motherhood" urged Zweig to write his novel Beware of Pity.
Irony or twist of fate shadow the tragic ends of the disabled Edith of Beware of Pity, and Lotte. Friderike wonders at Zweig's foresight in choosing that book's theme. More curious to me is what might Lotte have been thinking when she typed up Beware of Pity?
One might imagine hidden, unspoken feelings of a scorned, broken hearted woman. In the last chapter Friderike wrotebetween the lines, alluding that Lotte's passive, meek and unprotesting nature might have been another weak link that failed to rescue her husband from his ballooning despondency, ultimately ending in tragedy.
Perhaps future psychologists will be able to demonstrate that insufficiency of the joy of life may lead to mortal illness. When seized by fatal depression, my beloved friend had at his side neither an intuitive physician nor the old trusted nurse. A submissive woman, immersed in her service to him and weakened by physical debility, lived with him in a loneliness she acquiescently shared in spite of her youth. Stefan who had always sought occasional isolation, always fled from it in haste when the emptiness around him filled itself with images of too somber a nature.
Through separation and eventual divorce, Friderike remained Zweig's most constant friend, confidant and correspondent. She showed herself to be a generous, warm and caring person, deeply and spiritually devoted to Stefan. She always addressed herself as 'Mrs. Zweig', and he, her 'husband', up to her own death in 1971.
Married to Stefan Zweig was a good assessment from a wife who idolized her husband, but obviously a biased one. I have since found The Impossible Exile by George Prochnik to be a more complete, unprejudiced biography.
Chadwick builds on an argument over a chess game between Prince John and Fulke FitzWarin, a story that some scholars suggest probably holds some truth. After John becomes king and underhandedly strips him of his family's lands, Fulke with judgement clouded by black distrust and blinded by raging tempers, turns renegade to wreak havoc along the Welsh borders ( ergo inspiring the dearly loved Robin Hood legend ).
You're a king's son by birth, but just now I would accord a gutter sweeping more respect than you!
Chadwick created an exciting historical setting with interesting characters - heroes and foils, both lovable and despicable. I have been reading Chadwick's stories for a long time, and always marvel at how expertly she handles the details and choreography of her battle scenes.
I was completely immersed in the novel from the start: a blend of historical facts ( the Magna Carta is introduced ) and fiction ( a little something to make you weep), yet the tale as a whole was so believable, I often felt the dialogue was real. I shan't betray much more, except to say that I quickly blew through this novel with eagerness..I think you would, too.
In her author's note, Elizabeth Chadwick cites J. Meisel's Barons of the Welsh Frontier, and Two Medieval Outlaws by Glyn Burgess ( among others ) for those who wish to separate truth from myth regarding King John and FitzWarin. Readers of Chadwick's novels can always depend on her to relay historical events accurately. Recommend highly for all medieval historical fictionistas.
We live through myriads of seconds, yet it is always one, just one, that casts our entire inner world into turmoil.
Roland, a well respected, older professor who holds an honored place in the ivory towers of academia, recalls his life as a young student, and his relationship to his own professor and mentor at that time-- a man whom he admired, obsessed over and wanted to emulate. He replays memories of his situation as a university student, having had a horrific grievance with his father, renting a room in his teacher's home and becoming his amanuensis.
Roland discovers that being in such close proximity to his professor and his wife, deeply checked secrets become increasingly difficult to suppress. His confusion is borne from the innocence of a youth whose direction is often ambiguous in the face of inexperience: too naive to comprehend a sideways glance; too unsophisticated to decipher a muffled conversation or to interpret the slightest change of demeanor. This living arrangement becomes one of anxiety, mixed emotions, tension, and misunderstanding.
What place had I reached? I had sensed the secrets quite close, its hot breath already on my face, and now it had retreated again, but its shadow, its silent, opaque shadow still murmured in the air, I felt it as a dangerous presence in the house..
While his wife manages the game of secrets with a deft hand, Roland's mentor lives in constant fear of his secret being revealed, especially in a society that keeps the 'perpetrator's' name on a 'certain list'.
It isn't right, not a young student and his teacher, do you understand? One must keep one's distance...
Such restrained passions do not fit comfortably in the conventional form of the period, and must be kept hushed up, closeted, hidden behind closed doors. The relationships between the three feverishly entangle into a discombobulated love triangle.
It will soon be cleared up because I'm not letting him play with you and confuse you like that anymore. There must be an end to all this. He must finally learn to control himself. You're too good for his dangerous games.
Zweig takes the reader into a turbulence of high-strung emotions, as crossed messages become haphazardly layered one on top the other. He portrays Roland's fiery confusion as a pathogen, taking over the thoughts of one person who spreads its virulent toxins to the other.
Nothing however is more arousing and intriguing to a young man than a teasing set of vague suspicions; the imagination usually wandering idly finds its quarry suddenly revealed to it, and is immediately agog with the newly discovered pleasure of the chase.
Confusion's plot isn't a contemporary one - outlooks have changed since the period this story was set; and by today's standards, it is basically nothing to be shocked by. For that reason, it wouldn't completely excite the reader. However, it is another wonderful gem from Zweig's observations into human affects and relationships. It may be a bit disorienting and frenzied, but that was the whole purpose.
Here's a little reggae ditty:
We all got something to hide,
We're all livin' a lie...
What goes on behind closed doors?
Nobody knows, nobody knows for sure
by Lionize - http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qZrMl7ah-w0
Thundery black clouds had borne down on us from the direction of the city,
and the rain from them had fallen in streaks the thickness of a fountain pen.
Ibuse's documentary novel Black Rain is his widely acclaimed masterpiece about the aftermath of Hiroshima, expressed through the diaries of two survivors, Shigematsu and his niece, Yasuko. Shigematsu uses the diaries to try to prove that Yasuko is marriage-worthy, untainted by any poisonous fallout. Ibuse's tale recounts the lives of innocent, ordinary people irreparably altered by the dropping of the bomb; the immediate death of many; the chronic illness and subsequent discrimination that the survivors endured within the Japanese community. Shigematsu's journal makes up a large portion of the novel and is a record of an actual person; Yasuko's memoir is the author's invention.
I washed my hands at the ornamental spring, but even rubbing at the marks with soap couldn't get them off. They were stuck fast on the skin. It was most odd. I showed them to Uncle Shigematsu, who said, " It could be the oil from an oil bomb, after all. I wonder if it wasn't an oil bomb they dropped, then?"
Ibuse uses a matrix of themes that include violent natural and historical forces, estrangement and ambivalence, the sufferings of war, the strengths of victims cast aside, the traditional spirituality in commemoration of the dead. His novelistic values are rooted in Japanese tradition, depicting village lives with their unpretentious mix of customs, prejudices, and peculiarities; he smoothly contrasts humor with horror, dystopia with hope.
Reading Black Rain had the surrealistic effect of an apocalyptic science fiction - the construction of a natural world annihilated by a cataclysmic event that, had the reader been 'born yesterday', and therefore not privy to this world's history, would have suspended all ideas of reality and the belief in humanity.
...the correct name for the thing that had caused the monstrous flash-and-bang over the city.. An 'atomic bomb'... It gives off a terrific radiation...They say nothing'll grow in Hiroshima or Nagasaki for another seventy-five years.
Ibuse measures his storytelling with understatement and elusiveness, but despite this deceptive muteness and almost emotionally leveled prose, the depiction of the effects of the aftermath on the survivors is acidic. It is precisely from this unsettling degree of 'soft-spokeness' that the power of Black Rain, to evoke the horror of a nuclear event, is drawn. Noticeably, too, is the absence of the author's own point of view of the bombing, making the scope of the tragedy even greater when left to the reader's personal interpretation.
Wouldn't it have been possible to surrender before the bomb had been dropped?
I hated war. Who cared , after all, which side won? The only important thing was to end it all soon as possible: rather an unjust peace, than a 'just' war.
Even after realizing the inevitable cycle of death around him, Shigematsu whispers words tainted with a small spark of hope:"If a rainbow appears over those hills now, a miracle will happen," he prophesied to himself. "Let a rainbow appear- not a white one - but one of many hues- and Yasuko can be cured."
That is the spirit of the survivor!
I highly recommend this subtle, evocative novel. Also see its film adaptation Kuroi Ame (1989)http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XWzbTQTkVnc
From Pools of Water Pillars of Fire The Literature of Ibuse Masuji by John Whittier Treat, p.208:
Ibuse wanted to make sense out of Hiroshima, to find a way to make it fit into some greater truth, but : "I asked myself: Why did this happen? Everything seemed senseless... There was no justice, no humanity, no anything in what happened. Everyone died... it was too terrible."
The Sino-Japanese tradition was very important to Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970), who held strong ideals of the militaristic glory days of old Japan.
The lieutenant drew his wife close and kissed her vehemently. As their tongues explored each other's mouths, reaching out into the smooth, moist interior, they felt as if the still- unknown agonies of death had tempered their senses to the keenness of red-hot steel. The agonies they could not yet feel, the distant pains of death, had refined their awareness of pleasure.....
At the touch of his wife's tears on his stomach the lieutenant felt ready to endure with courage the cruelest agonies of his suicide.
The history of ancient Rome, in general, has cloaked the women of the Caesars in shadows and obscurity. Undoubtedly, these women are worthy of greater attention; their stories are fascinating in their own right, and rife with intrigue and scandal.
Livia Drusilla (58 B.C.- 28 A.D.) was extremely charitable to the cause of orphans and provided relief support to victims of disasters. She was privy to affairs of state and had the ear of "the ruler of the world." She has been viewed as the most powerful woman in the history of ancient Rome and was deified as a goddess after her death.
Livia was described by her grandson in I, Claudius (1934) as: both "remarkable and abominable," and one of the worst of the ancient Claudian family of Rome. Robert Graves's Claudius leaned to the beliefs that she was shrewd, cunning and responsible for poisoning many who crossed her path to power. Contemporary historians dispel this idea, finding these accusations baseless - a fair sentiment which Smith achieves in I am Livia by portraying her in a more judicious light.
To be appreciated as a woman, and also to be appreciated as a creature with a mind --what more could I have wanted?
The novel's similarity to I, Claudius is its autobiographic-fictional device, used in this case, to tell the historical events starting from the murder of Julius Caesar to the last Civil War. Smith's work however, skims the surface of historical details and their significance in shaping the Empire, focusing more on the characters' relationships, specifically, the woman behind the man.
Any woman who says she does not want to guide the actions of the man she loves, is in my opinion, lying.
Readers get to see the developing inner machinations of an astute, intuitive woman, viewing Livia as a young, out-spoken daughter of a nobleman, as a teen-bride, a wife to a Caesar and mother to a dynasty- a woman who could capably exercise influence over Caesar Octavianus, in her mind, "for the good of Rome"; whose political savvy and sound advice were probably her husband's greatest assets.
I can't claim to know much of ancient Roman history (a paucity I regret and look forward to remedy), so it was a little confusing for me with all the key figures (who bred like rabbits), their offspring, extended family members and/or adopted heirs with same or similar names. It is for this reason that I would have liked to see a genealogy map. Trust me, this is important! In the mean time, for those of like-mind, I am Livia is an enjoyable prompter to pulling out those ancient history books.
Generous marks to Phyllis T. Smith's I am Livia for a very good start (there's a follow up in the works).
Your Pride Will Be Your Undoing, Lionheart
A King's Ransom is the sweeping, adventurous sequel to Lionheart , a masterfully spun novel of the last seven years of Richard I's life: 1192-1199, focusing on the period of his capture, imprisonment, and ransoming by Heinrich Hohenstaufen, the Holy Roman Emperor. It is a homeric epic that retells the life of this legendary hero in "IMAX" detail. The author takes great care to keep historical veracity while weaving well thought-out strategies and motives, clearing a few myths and misconceptions along the way of transporting us on a grand medieval journey.
Sharon Kay Penman is well-known for her detailed, insightful characterizations, and in A King's Ransom, that skill is shown at its peak. Historical figures became flesh and blood, living, breathing 3- dimensional people: I felt the searing pain of burnt flesh, the fear and mania of being in solitary imprisonment; I smelled the musty, moldy dankness of the chilled dungeon; the putrefying odor of the suppurating wound; felt the heartbreak of a neglected wife; tasted the sweetness of love's second chance.
Her characters' personalities are well-conceived and fitting - I saw Richard I as a restless and impulsive adventurer, quick to flare up with that "notorious Angevin temper," more suited to aggressive military life than to contemplating law, governing a kingdom; or to committed marital life.
It couldn't be all swords and crossbows in Ms. Penman's novels, so it was a pleasure to see the women of court take active duty: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joanna, Berengaria. Their roles and perspectives brought deeply heartfelt, emotional dimensions to that dangerous, often tragic medieval life.
History is never so entertaining as in a fictionalized version, and Ms.Penman pulled it off in imaginative scenes - sieges, battles, betrayals, political drama - the dangerous 12th century game of Monopoly . The amazing sea adventure, Richard's capture and especially his incarceration will stay in my mind for a long time.
I particularly got a thrill by old King Henry's cameo appearance as Richard lay feverish in his dungeon: "There is something else you need to remember whenever this new reality of yours becomes more than you think you can bear. You cannot gain revenge from the grave. Trust me on this; I know."
Ms. Penman brings spirit and passion to the life of the Coeur de Lion, whose legend will carry on in A King's Ransom -the last of the Angevin Trilogy, much like what Homer did for Odysseus... and you know how successful that was.
Richard I (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199). He was known as Richard Cœur de Lion, or mainly Richard the Lionheart, even before his accession, because of his reputation as a great military leader and warrior.
Closely Observed Trains or Closely Watched Trains (1965)
The coming-of-age story of Milos Hrma - a young, naïve railwayman - unfolds in a small lethargic train station, set in North Bohemia, Prague during the last two weeks of WWII, 1945. Milos narrates the tale which covers a timespan of 48 hours, comprising a series of flashbacks where it is revealed how his family name had come to be besmirched by three generations of Hrma men; including the mysterious origins of the gashes on his wrists.
Milos's day is spent dreamily watching military trains pass through to the front transporting the injured and dying; displaced refugees who had lost their homes in bombings; even dead or dying animals - evoking a clear picture of the chaotic period as a result of the impending German collapse.
The plot moves surrealistically, from a natural to humorous manner: the daily lives and interactions of the townfolk; the histrionics of his forebears; the German Occupation and movement of Nazi troops from the front; Milos's humiliating 'first time' with his girlfriend that later prompted a suicide attempt; the licentious scene with dispatcher Hubička, inkstamping the derrière of the female telegraphist. I found such ribald scenes and periodic, foolish, digressive banter to be quite amusing, highlighting Hrabal's skill at veiling human drama with his distinctive sense of humor. About Milos's grandfather who thought himself a "hypnotist":
In this tank waist-deep in the cabin stood an officer of the Reich, with a black beret with the death's- head badge and crossed bones on his head, and my grandfather kept on going steadily forward, straight toward this tank, with his hands stretched out, and his eyes spraying towards the Germans the thought: 'Turn around and go back!'
And really, that tank halted. The whole army stood still. Grandfather touched the leading tank with his outstretched fingers, and kept pouring out towards it the same suggestion: 'Turn around and go back, turn around and...' And then the lieutenant gave a signal with his pennant, and the tank changed its mind and moved forward, but grandfather never budged, and the tank ran over him and crushed his head, and after that there was nothing standing in the way of the German army.
Milos's youthful idealistic view of Hubička, and a personal, perhaps subconscious, drive to remove the stigma from his family name- particularly his grandfather's doomed effort - lead him to accept a dangerous mission that culminates in a dramatic heroic deed, as he mercilessly exclaims:
"You should have sat at home on your arse..."
War fictionistas who have read All's Quiet on the Western Front would note echoes of a similar fateful and humanistic scene.
Bohumil Hrabal's short, postwar novel is a stunning blend of humor, humanity, tragedy and heroism, justifiably earning the appellation of "masterpiece." Highly recommend.
Bohumil Hrabal (Czech pronunciation: [ˈboɦumɪl ˈɦrabal]) (28 March 1914 – 3 February 1997) was a Czech writer, regarded by many Czechs as one of the best writers of the 20th century. During the war, he worked as railway labourer and dispatcher in Kostomlaty, near Nymburk, an experience reflected in one of his best-known works Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Observed Trains).
After his employer, Julius de Coster, confesses to have defrauded his firm to the level of immediate liquidation, Popinga realizes that, not only will he lose his job, but he'll be penniless, for he had invested all his savings in the firm. De Coster's deception and impertinent, harsh put-downs spur Popinga to seek a way out from facing responsibility. At the age of 40, he chooses to do as he pleases -no restraints, no laws or rigid conventions. A chance to escape from the routine of life is grabbed, freeing himself from the nets of domesticity and duty, fleeing the judgments, the daily desultory remarks and opinions from "cocksured ignoramuses who think they know everything.""There was something that had an appeal for him in trains, especially in night- trains, which always put queer, vaguely improper notions into his head- though he would have been hard put to it to define them. Also he had an impression that those who leave by night- trains leave for ever - an impression heightened the previous night by his glimpse of those Italians piled into their carriage like emigrants."
There are doorways, gates, between this world and the world of spirits through which the dead can return. Not just as spirits, but as living, breathing beings-- Sleepers.
The Winter People is a preternatural, gothic classic; a feral, feverishly suspenseful tale of those who exist outside the known world, on the fringe --
The story of a little girl named Gertie who died.
Whose mother loved her too much to let her go.
So she brought her back.
The world she came back to wasn't the same.
She wasn't the same.....
What she longs for is human blood.
I was truly impressed with how well the author was able to blend the typical otherworldly elements of a ghost story, without crossing the line into triteness: it was simply a phantasmagoric read.
And, I think the portal was left open for a sequel?..sequel...sequel!
YA generally may be a little off my reading zeitgeist, but it's good to try different genres; it makes me feel that I'm openminded (although this might be a delusion). The Color of Light got my attention for the supernatural and gothic themes. At first, I was a little worried about the charred, overdone vampire stories bursting out of a gloaming pop culture. However, this novel had a deeper variation to its dusky predecessors, and proved to be an interesting historical fiction: weaving not only WWII and present day plot lines, but uniquely taking the reader into the colorful world of Renaissance art.
This was a treat. It's a testimonial to the punch of a novel when the reader in offered something new and exciting to explore.
In The Color of Light, the protagonists, Tessa and Rafe (Raphael), are at opposite ends of the spectrum: light is contrasted by dark; good battles the forces of evil; beauty is in the company of the beast. In a similar vein, old struggles to survive in a modern world: the technique of Renaissance artwork is dying, being replaced by avant-garde abstractions.
The themes of the bond of friendship and a love that comes full circle were cleverly painted (pun). There was a strong sense of friendship throughout the book, especially when Tessa flounders, or Rafe loses his direction. Always, always the circle of friends would create an unbreakable ring, providing unending support. This 'circle of light' keeps moving through the story, illuminating the shadows and casting glows as the characters develop. I lost count of the number of times "circle" was mentioned in the novel, but hey, it had the subliminal effect intended.
I'd have to say The Color of Light had a positive influence on me. From it, I revisited an interest in Renaissance art, the period and the artists, specifically in Raphael Sanzio whose Madonna and Child played a significant role.