A Right Royal Face-Off
It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice a stone’s thrown from London’s royal palaces, while the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.
Fonder of the low life than high society, Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?
Meanwhile, two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket antiques TV show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?
Mixing ancient and modern as he did in his acclaimed debut The Hopkins Conundrum, Simon Edge takes aim at fakery and pretension in this highly original celebration of one of our greatest artists.
This is a tremendously enjoyable dual-timeline story centred on a painting by Thomas Gainsborough. We jump from Georgian times where the artist is undertaking a particular commission, and the present day where we meet Gemma who’s working, not to her delight, on Britain’s Got Treasures. A painting turns up on the programme that causes quite a stir.
There’s plenty of action and humour in both time periods. The historical elements come over as well researched and clearly depicted, and also imaginatively embroidered. There’s no doubt the author’s writing puts life and relevancy into the historical period and events he portrays. He’s equally good at contemporary settings and has a sharp, satiric eye for detail. He introduces us to a fine array of characters, modern and less so, and each one is fascinating.
Fact and fiction rub along very happily in this spirited novel. The whole book is energetic and lively, and it’s one you can’t put down. Absolutely to recommend.
Readers can order the book from the Lightning Books website at 50% off (with free UK p&p) if you enter this code at checkout – BLOGTOURFACE
Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.
He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years.
He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London. His first novel, The Hopkins Conundrum, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. He lives in Suffolk.
Read more about Simon and his work at www.simon-edge.com.
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