SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012 When she leaves the ward she feels the whiteness of the room still inside her, as if she is bleached out inside. It is the shock, she tells herself. She feels the whiteness like a dam holding back all the coloured flood of memory. Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A man is found on the steps of a ...
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012 When she leaves the ward she feels the whiteness of the room still inside her, as if she is bleached out inside. It is the shock, she tells herself. She feels the whiteness like a dam holding back all the coloured flood of memory. Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A man is found on the steps of a hospital, frail as a fallen bird. He carries no identification and utters no words, and it is days before anyone discovers that he is deaf and mute. And then a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a car, a country house, dogs and mirrored rooms and samovars in what is now a lost world. The memories are Safta's also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor at Poiana that was her family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin's world remained the same size Safta's expanded to embrace languages, society - and love, as Augustin watched one long hot summer, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda. Safta left before the war. Augustin stayed. But even in the wide hills and valleys around Poiana he did not escape its horrors. He watched uncomprehending as armies passed through the place. Then the Communists came, and he found himself their unlikely victim. There are things that he must tell Safta that may be more than simple drawings can convey. Beautiful, spare and intense, Painter of Silence captures the loss and the hope of a tragic time through the extraordinary vision of a mute outsider.
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Publishers Weekly, 2012-07-02 Harding's well-crafted new novel (after The Spy Game) is the touching tale of a deaf mute, a young nurse, and a brief love overshadowed by WWII. In the early 1950s, Safta discovers a man slumped on the steps of the hospital where she works, in the Romanian town of Iasi. Though he cannot hear or speak, she remembers him from their childhood together: Safta and her family once lived on a grand estate in Poiana before the war, and this man, Tinu, was the son of the cook. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the two developed a deep friendship. In 1939, when Tinu and Safta are 16-years-old, an entrancing Romanian raised in France arrives at the manse and captures Safta's heart. Throughout the summer, Tinu silently observes Safta and Andrei's blossoming romance. But then war descends and changes everything. Now, reunited at the hospital, Safta and Tinu relive the past through Tinu's totemic drawings of the people and places his quiet presence has graced. Harding effortlessly alternates between pre- and post-WWII, and her expert pacing lends a moving solemnity to the proceedings. Agent: Broo Doherty, Wade & Doherty Literary. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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