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The crimson portrait : a novel
Jody Shields
Adult Fiction SHIELDS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A majestic English estate sees new use as a makeshift hospital for WWI's wounded in Shields's beautifully haunting second novel. After losing her husband, Charles, in WWI, Catherine honors his wish to turn their home over to the army's medical unit, and it is soon filled with men wounded in combat, such as Julian, who, though half his face has been destroyed by shrapnel, reminds her of Charles. Dr. McCleary, who left retirement to work at the hospital, bonds with Julian while trying to keep Artis, an aspiring doctor and former groundskeeper, from being drafted. Also on staff is artist Anna Coleman, who sketches the wounded for medical records and lends her artistic talents to an undertaking proposed by Dr. McCleary: he wants to create a mask for a patient with an irreparably damaged face; Anna is to paint the soldier's pre-injury face on the mask. When that soldier turns out to be Julian, Catherine secretly embarks on a plan to resurrect her husband through her new lover. Shields's writing weaves dark mythical symbolism with matter-of-fact medical nitty-gritty to reveal what happens when class, ignorance, hopefulness and despair coalesce. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

It's 1915, and Catherine's home in England is turned into a hospital for soldiers with facial wounds, at the request of her husband, Charles, killed in battle. Shields's second novel (after The Fig Eater) constructs a complex labyrinth of jealousy, addiction, passion, and regret as it also presents a history of maxillofacial (re: plastic) surgery and the medical arts. The hospital, where every mirror and reflective surface has been hidden away, is run by Dr. McCleary, whose own memories of past love are funneled into saving a boy from the draft. Dr. Kazanjian, a "foreigner" skilled at using found objects to manufacture medical aids, is drawn to Anna Coleman, an American-born artist who was part of a Harvard-sponsored medical team. Anna is enlisted to document the wounded for posterity. She paints Julian, whose damaged face "can only be portrayed with a palette of impalpable colors. Harsh pinks, red. A crimson portrait." Assisting in Anna's studio, Catherine becomes obsessed with Julian, whom she believes embodies the spirit of her dead husband. Is one person's pain validated only when witnessed by another? Is love, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Despite a rushed ending, this provocative and elegant novel is recommended for serious fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/06.] Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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more titles about

main characters Catherine
Female
Widow
Lost her husband in World War I; turns her estate into an army hospital; having an affair with Julian; wants to transform Julian into the image of her lost husband.

Julian
Male
Half his face was destroyed in the war; face is hidden behind bandages; has an affair with Catherine.
Soldier



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