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Sacrificing it All for Art
on July 21, 2004
After reading "Tulip Fever" and "Girl With a Pearl Earring" I was in a Vermeer state of mind. Craving more, I happened upon this little story by Katharine Weber. Not quite what I expected, it nevertheless moves freely after a deliberately murky and introspective opening by narrator art historian, Patricia Dolan. Divorced, Patricia is forever haunted by the death of her only child in an unfortunate school bus accident. Memories of her mother, also deceased, further complicate and plunge her shaky emotions into the subterrean depths of the depressed mind. Enter Mickey, the younger man, a sweet and all-male Irish relation, who charms even Patricia's ex -Boston cop father after reawakening her sexuality with his rough and tumble bedroom savoir faire. Soon Patricia finds herself in Ireland, the sentinel to a tiny priceless Vermeer painting stolen in transit from a museum show back to its owner Queen Elizabeth herself, by Mickey and his band of Irish Republican sympathizers. When Patricia realizes she has been duped, used all along for her art historian's knowledge of the painting and its crating, she must scrounge up all the courage she buried deep within her after the death of her child and her own innocence.
Slow at first as it should be, this tiny novel flounders a little as the voice of Patricia recounts her sadness. Once she establishes her emotional foundation, however, the story picks up a well-appreciated momentum, where the reader feels as if she is moving along with the tide, feeling Patricia's pain firsthand as revelation after revelation clicks into place like the pieces of a sick little jigsaw puzzle. Satisfying ending with delicious descriptions of the fictitious Vermeer and the feelings of beauty, perfection and peace the painter instills within Patricia even after all she has gone through.