Sunday, 26 November 2006

The Sand in the Painting

The Sand in the Painting is my first novel, available from amazon and all online bookstores.

Many thanks to Kay Green from Earlyworks Press for the following review:

The Sand in the Painting
By Catherine Edmunds

Review by Kay Green

This is a startling and intriguing book. The framework is a familiar one – to tell the story of a group of friends as a series of overlapping tableaux, changing viewpoints with each new chapter. Previous examples I’ve read have been promising at the start, but became tedious or repetitive at some point. The Sand in the Painting gave completely the opposite experience. I was a bit dubious when I saw what was ahead, and a bit impatient when I saw that chapter 3 would reiterate things I’d seen in chapters 1 and 2 – but by then I’d been drawn in. My doubts forgotten, I was hooked and the book maintained its grip right to the last page.‘What was she thinking of?’ we so often cry, and, ‘What on earth do they talk about when they’re together?!’ On its lighter level, this book exploits that predatory curiosity: The reader finishes each chapter at a gallop, burning with the desire to open the next and find out what the other one was really thinking, and what he said to her when they left the room.But there is more. Author Catherine Edmunds has presented complex, believable characters in a well-realized setting and created – what? – something between an intelligent romance and a suspense novel. I found myself continually having to change my mind about which characters I was in sympathy with, because I met each one as you do in life: First as someone on the edge throwing in comments, then as the friend, spouse or colleague of someone I cared about – and then suddenly as themselves, with all their motivations and perceptions laid out before me. It’s an object lesson in empathy.The Sand in the Painting, rather like the seed in the oyster shell, is the irritation which stimulates greatness and terror, and the factor which makes human affairs so unpredictable and so creative. With impressive craftsmanship and control, Edmunds develops small actions and reactions between her characters and consistently produces surprising and yet believable revelations right up to the final pages. I approached the last page feeling – briefly – that a trite happy ending might be coming along. Well, as Richard Bach once pointed out, if you’re still alive, your story can’t be finished. And this book demonstrates that. We get a happy ending – but one in which the snags and seeds of future challenges leave the reader busily writing the sequel even as the book is put down.Have you ever walked out of a conversation smugly sure that you understand everyone present better than they understand themselves? Have you ever wisely and capably treated someone in an emotional state or with a mental condition in ‘the right way’? Have you ever washed your hands of a clich├ęd situation, knowing exactly how it will come out? Well, I guarantee you won’t get through this novel without kicking yourself more than once for your blindness and assumptions.What struck me as the most original feature of this book was the way the complexity of the social interactions it portrays builds up progressively without ever withdrawing to an impersonal, gods-eye-view. The result is that towards the end, when all the friends you now know so well converge in one place, you are so aware of the tender wounds in each of their beings, so mindful of what self-obsessed little despots human beings can be, that the rash chanciness of a roomful of friends hoping to survive a coffee and a chat is terrifying.If you are interested in people, if you want to understand human communication and perception, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. But don’t read it on the train. If you get past the first chapter you will almost certainly miss your stop and have to finish the book in the terminus.

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