The Gallery of Vanished Husbands

20 Apr

I have just finished reading The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons.

Juliet Montague’s husband has runaway/vanished, leaving her with two children to raise.  As her  husband did not grant her a Jewish divorce before he left, Juliet becomes an agunah (a chained woman) and an object of pity and distaste within the community.  An impulsive decision to sit for her portrait changes the trajectory of Juliet’s life, launching her into the art world where he knack for distinguishing quality pieces of artwork will be put to good use.

I quite enjoy the way Solomons writes (I also enjoyed her previous book Mr Rosenblum’s List).  Her writing does not enthral at every juncture, but there are sufficient well written sentences and phrases to sustain interest.  The first  two lines exemplify the juxtaposition of necessary phrasing and phrasing that hooks the reader.   The opening line, “[i]t was Juliet Montague’s thirtieth birthday,” is a necessary inclusion, marking the beginning of a timeline and signalling the notion that changes are afoot.  It is the second sentence, however, which intrigues: “This did not worry her unduly, although she conceded that other women in her position might well be disconcerted.”  That line gives fantastic insight into Juliet’s character.  We learn, for example, that she is reflective, guided by an internal barometer but not unaware of her surrounds, and that her circumstances are relevant, but by no means unique.

As the novel progressed, I found myself getting sucked into the story.  There were sections where I was unable to put the book down.  I think what I enjoyed about this book was the characterisation, and the way in which each character’s world was intimately intertwined with that of others in the novel.  Despite the isolation of certain characters, no one was fully independent.

AOS Belonging

This novel explores the complexities of belonging to family, community, culture and religion.  It emphasises that while some connections are established as a matter of birth right, the strength of those connections are not guaranteed.  Indeed, it is individual choice and the perceptions of others that determine belonging.

AOS Discovery

In essence, the novel details Juliet’s coming of age; it allows us to stand beside Juliet as she discovers who she is (and is not) and what her purpose is in a range of contexts.

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One Response to “The Gallery of Vanished Husbands”

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  1. Discovery related texts | Once uPUN a time... - July 9, 2014

    […] The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons (novel) […]

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