Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Press
From the award-winning author of The Bellwether Revivals comes a "gorgeous and harrowing work" (Emily St. John Mandel) set on a mysterious island, where artists strive to recover their lost gifts -- and where nothing is quite as it seems.
Situated on a Turkish island, Portmantle might be the strangest, most exclusive artists' colony around. Its brilliant residents linger for years, all expenses paid and living under assumed names. Relieved of the burdens of time and ego, they are free to create their next masterpieces.
Elspeth Conroy (aka "Knell") is a Scottish painter who has been at Portmantle for a decade, a refugee from the hectic London art scene. Her fellow longtimers include Quickman, whose sole book became a classic and paralyzed his muse; MacKinney, a playwright who left behind her family; and Pettifer, an architect obsessing over an unfinished cathedral. In his astonishing second novel, Benjamin Wood gives us “an intensely intimate portrait of an artist as a young woman, with truths on every page” (Independent).
The hermetic world at Portmantle shatters when the 17-year-old Fullerton arrives at the gates, his provenance and talents unknown. As Knell searches for answers, she reveals the path that led her to this place: Her intimate bond with her gruff drunk of a mentor; her early successes and crushing failures; a journey across the Atlantic and into the psychiatrist's office; and a grand commission of astronomical significance.
What is "The Ecliptic," and how does it relate to the life Elspeth left behind? This gorgeous puzzle of a novel touches the head and the heart, and the effect is nothing short of electrifying.
When you’re an artist and you lose your mojo, just how much does it affect you? How much of your daily life is affected? When your art is your life, how do you separate the two? In The Ecliptic, Wood takes us deep into the psyche of an artist and the intricate way in which they view the world.
The story starts at Portsmantle, an elusive artist retreat hidden on a Turkish island. Portsmantle is a melting pot of people from all over with their talents lying in all different fields of the arts. Here we meet, Elspeth Conroy, a painter who has lost her way. She’s been at Portsmantle for about a decade and has almost nothing to show for it. She keeps close to her friends, sharing their lack of progress with each other and commenting on the flow of ‘short-timers’ who parade in and out of their home. When their newest resident arrives, a young boy with an erratic personality, Elspeth develops a strange connection with him – one that awakens her artistic desire.
This book isn’t one that I normally gravitate to. And honestly, had it not been offered up as an ARC I might never had read it. I didn’t connect with any of the characters, mostly because I know relatively nothing about painting and I felt, even though as descriptive as they were, it just didn’t make sense to me. All of the talk of pigmentation and color melding just went over my head and found myself skimming the parts regarding the actual act of painting. I was more interested in the story of the boy at Portsmantle then I was over anything else.
What I did like was watching Elspeth’s dissent into her own mind. I predicted the ending about halfway through, I’m not sure if that was a good thing as I’m sure the writer wanted it to be a shocking ending. But at the same time, I liked that that was where Wood took the story. It made it more realistic and have more substance, more weight. Would I recommend this book? I would to people who view art in words and also those who love studying the human mind and all the ways it can perceive realities. And bravo to the author for the work put into this.