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The Painter of Battles: A Novel Hardcover – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist and former war correspondent Pérez-Reverte (The Club Dumas; The Queen of the South) adds another taut literary thriller to his critically acclaimed list. Andres Faulques, an award-winning war photographer, is holed up in a stone tower on the Spanish coast, purging his wartime memories by painting a battle-scene mural. He has abandoned photography and is also unsuccessfully trying to banish the memory of his lover, the brilliant, bewitching Olvido, also a war photographer, who was killed as Faulques watched. One day, a strange visitor, the Croatian ex-soldier Ivo Markovic (who turns out to be the subject of one of Faulques's most famous photos), arrives with an evil agenda: he plans to kill Faulques, but first he wants to tell him how the photo altered the course of his life. (Let's say it didn't do him any favors.) Some readers may find the narrative slow—much of the novel takes place in Faulques's head, with lengthy reflections on the atrocities he has photographed, the social responsibilities of artists and photographers, and the consequences of choice and chance—though others will relish the meticulous details and dark, brooding tone. (Jan.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

“It’s the nearest I’ve got to a personal memoir,” explains best-selling Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte, who drew extensively on his experience as a war correspondent while writing The Painter of Battles. A departure from his highly regarded thrillers and historical dramas (Captain Alatriste, **** Selection, Sept/Oct 2005; Purity of Blood, ***1/2 Mar/Apr 2006), it received mixed reviews from the critics. The novel, developing slowly through lengthy philosophical discussions and flashbacks, troubled some reviewers who wanted more plot and forward momentum; however, others overlooked this deficiency and praised Pérez-Reverte’s lush prose and keen insight into human nature. “Readers who prefer action to intellectual discussion, especially when accompanied by coolly objective descriptions of the appalling things men do to each other, will prefer to leave this novel on the shelf” (Sunday Times).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065981
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,430,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Matt Hausig VINE VOICE on January 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Past readers of Arturo Perez-Reverte should be aware that this book is much different from his earlier work. The story follows what may be the last days of retired war photographer's life. Falques has secluded himself in a tower to paint a mural of past battles when he is interrupted by a ghost from his past, a past subject of one of his photographs. The man, Ivo Markovic explains that the photograph has tragically altered his life, leading to his incarceration and torture and the destruction of his family. Markovic further explains that he has studied and followed Falques and ultimately intends to kill him.
From this introduction, the book proceeds with Falques and Markovic retelling their stories of the wartime horrors they experienced and Falques painting and reflecting upon the nature of his oeuvre. Falques also remembers his time with his lover Olvido, whose dead body he photographed, said act being coincidentally witnessed by Markovic. It is the circumstances surrounding this photograph that most intrigues Markovic and drives the story to its eventual conclusion.
While the author writes very well, there is little to enjoy in this book. The main characters serve primarily to relay stories of wartime atrocity, cruelty and brutal violence. The recurrent theme is the evil and corruption of human nature with the subtext of the Olvido-Falques romance being the ephemerality of life. The ugliness at the core of this novel cannot be hidden, no matter how good the writing is. Further, there is no real progression to the plot. Markovic shows up, numerous stories are exchanged leading up to the story behind Olvido's death which heralds the ending of the novel. There is no real suspense because the Olvido's death is forecast early on as the climax of the novel.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chelle on December 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Painter of Battles reads like a treatise on war and art; the two are evenly matched in this novel, but each in a way puts a fingertip down on the tension of the story, rendering it incapable of the taut hum that Pérez-Reverte's books have sung with in the past. The cover blurb and snippet of dialogue, along with my love for another of the author's books, compelled me to pick this one up, but after wading through what felt like at the time a heavy-handed first chapter, I wasn't hooked. No, that came later, but still my interest ebbed and rushed like the water against Andrés Faulques' tower.

There is no doubt that The Painter of Battles is a strong and sad novel with plenty to say about the intensity of war and the elusive quality of life, how art struggles to capture something so fleeting. It was only after I read each chapter that I truly appreciated what was being said, that an image would startle me, or a theory prompt me to consider how limited my view is of the very small piece of world I reside in. And it was only after finishing it that the story and tension seemed secondary to all that.

Whether you'll enjoy The Painter of Battles is entirely dependent on what you are looking to gain from it. If you want intrigue and fast-paced action, you won't find it here. If you want a considerable amount of introspection and don't mind sitting down to paragraphs that last for two pages or more, give it a try. In the end, all I can say is this: Take the time to let it settle and sift it through your thoughts, your own memories, photographs you've taken and ones you've seen, and only then decide what the novel meant to you.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Painter of Battles is a beautifully written word picture encompassing everything from "the Butterfly effect", to art history lessons, to a morality homily on the futility of war and the evil that man bestows on his fellow man.

Perez-Reverte draws you into the story as he meticulously recounts (probably from his own experiences as a war journalist) example after example of the insanity of war and examines the cruelty and finality of its outcome. In essence, Perez-Reverte gives us and in depth look at the nature of man who he perceives as possessing an in-born inescapable evil that he has, utilizing his superior intelligence, refined through the centurys into an art form.

This story of two men, inescapably linked by a war, a chance encounter and a photograph, and the culmination of those events is mezmerizing. As the story progresses, their relationship becomes almost symbiotic in nature.

This is definitely not your "run of the mill" novel and Perez-Reverte is not your run of the mill writer. His fluent prose and evocative observations will fill your mind and soul like a fine dinner satisfies your hunger. Perez-Reverte has created his own "Butterfly Effect". By writing this book, he has effected the perception of his readers.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on January 13, 2008
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This is not, as listed, a thriller/mystery. Perez-Reverte was once one of my favorite authors when, earlier in his career, he wrote cerebral mysteries on extremely interesting subjects. The Battle Painter is an anti-war account (and sometimes rant) by a retired war photographer who meets a former soldier and POW who can relate to his war experiences.

The setting is the former war photographer (the Painter of Battles) has retired to live in a tower in Spain. He is painting a mural of war atrocities on the curving wall of the interior. While there, he is visited by the subject of one of his photographs who calmly asserts that he will kill the painter.

This is a rare book in that it can be broken down into several distinct parts. The author switches among these topics throughout: philosophizing about war by the two men (tedious); an account of the painter's brief love affair (at times good); descriptions of the horrors of war as photographed (very good); and, descriptions and references to paintings (too esoteric unless the reader really knows art).

The descriptive passages are wonderful. The portrayals of the scenes and events leading up to photographs taken in war are vivid and gripping. They are, by far, the best part of the book.

The writing takes some getting used to. Sentences can be extremely long with dependent clauses taking the places of adjectives. Often, it was necessary to go back and start over to be able to maintain all the thoughts in a sentence.

For those who, like me, pine for this author's early terrific mysteries, this will be a great disappointment. There are the great descriptions in this book, but there is no plot per se, only memoir-type recollections with philosophy interspersed. This is a fine account of the ravages and horrors of war told, at times, somewhat heavy-handedly.
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