Greenwich Village, 1959. Claire Bishop sits for a portrait—a gift from her husband—only to discover that what the artist has actually depicted is Claire’s suicide. Haunted by the painting, Claire is forced to redefine herself within a failing marriage and a family history of madness. Shifting ahead to 2004, we meet West, a young man with schizophrenia obsessed with a painting he encounters in a gallery: a mysterious image of a woman’s suicide. Convinced it was painted by his ex-girlfriend, West constructs an elaborate delusion involving time-travel, Hasidism, art-theft, and the terrifying power of representation. When the two characters finally meet, in the present, delusions are shattered and lives are forever changed.
The Suicide of Claire Bishop is a dazzling debut, evocative of Michael Cunningham's The Hours (and Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway), as well as Donna Tartt's bestseller The Goldfinch. With high stakes that reach across American history, Carmiel Banasky effortlessly juggles balls of madness, art theft, and Time itself, holding the reader in a thrall of language and personal consequences. Daring, sexy, emotional, The Suicide of Claire Bishop heralds Banasky as an important new talent.
Confusing. Sadly, that's the only word that comes to my head when I think of this book. Don't get me wrong, I was plenty excited when I first came across it. The premise promised mental illness, time travel, art theft and lots more, so naturally, I expected something very engaging, but what I got instead was a spider's web of confusing anecdotes.
The plot was very imaginative, told through the perspectives of Claire Bishop and West- the former, the subject of a painting that depicted her own suicide and the latter, a schizo caught up in the delusion of time-travel that includes a certain painting. Yes, the painting of the suicide of Claire Bishop. I'd rather not go into the story line- you might want to read it for yourself (and maybe you could do me the courtesy of explaining that very unsatisfactory ending?). Anyway, what entails is the journey of how these two characters from very different walks of life unite because of this painting, painted by Nicolette.
Characterization was done efficiently, but I found myself being unable to really connect with any of them, perhaps except Claire. I loved reading about Claire. She was fully imagined and we learnt a lot about her. I found myself wishing one too many times that the book was told only through her POV. West was a very muddling character. I understand he is schizophrenic and so it's a given that the way he thinks would be very different from a normal person's, but I didn't like reading extensively from his perspective because this really befuddled the plot. I found myself really frustrated with West at times, like-
The writing was beautiful, gorgeous even at times, but it failed to impress me since the author did not convey the plot coherently. There were many underlying subplots and they all contributed towards the story, but every damn cliché was used in this book- mental illnesses, bad marriages, infidelity, broken friendships. It's like the author grasped a few concepts- and ta-da!- came up with the story. Maybe the author should have spent more time in constructing the plot, because I found it too easy to disengage myself from this story. Gripping, it certainly is not.
I really struggled to finish this book, but I ploughed on because I expected a spectacular ending. I expected an ending that would leave me truly gobsmacked, but unfortunately it only left me confused, frustratedly pulling my hair for the lack of answers. Perhaps I just went into this book with the wrong expectations, and maybe that is what really highlighted the problems I had with the novel.
Carmiel Banasky can write beautifully, I won't deny that. The Suicide of Claire Bishop is beautifully written and if you love books for their sentence structure or the writing style, I'd recommend this book to you. This book just wasn't my cup of tea.
The story idea: 3/5
The realization of the story: 2/5
The characters: 2/5
The cover: 2/5
Enjoy factor: 1/5
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