The Artist’s Widow by Shena Mackay

Picture 142 I’m still not sure what to make of this book. Apart from the main protagonist, the artist’s widow I just didn’t really believe in any of the characters. The book was published in 1998 and set in the preceding year. there can be no doubt about that as the final few pages fit the events of the story around the death of Princess Diana on 31 August 1997. It just didn’t come across as a rounded portrayal of that decade.

As far as I’m aware, I haven’t read anything by Shena Mackay but her name is very familiar and I don’t know why. I wanted to abandon this back but I couldn’t. Now I’m trying to work out exactly why I couldn’t put it down. The story wasn’t compelling. Nothing really happened. A woman’s artist husband has died and she is still alive and misses him. Apart from a few glimpses of their life together this is not the story of a marriage, rather the tenuous connecting thread of the widow allows us to be introduced to a range of stereotypical characters. So perhaps that was the point? But if that was the point it didn’t sit well with the more rounded portrayal of Lyris Crane, herself an artist but now seemingly existing only to others as ‘the artist’s widow’.

Though the book was not a page-turner I had to read to the end and I will certainly pick up other Shena Mackay titles if I stumble across them. And as an aside I wonder if anyone, anywhere has compiled a list of books that refer to iconic moments in popular history such as the death of prominent people or momentous events?

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