About the Book
Book: The Girl in the Painting
Author: Tea Cooper
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.
Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.
Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.
But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late.
From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.
The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper is a phenomenal read. I was hooked from the first page and stayed up late several nights to keep reading. My favorite thing about this novel is that it is so unique and intriguing. This is actually my favorite thing about Tea Cooper’s novels — they are all so interesting and so different from anything else in literature today. Cooper takes seemingly insignificant things and turns them into the most captivating of stories. In this book, the reader is treated to a little romance, a ton of mystery, and a great illustration of what it means to be a family.
One of the things I suffered when I gave birth to my daughter was a brain bleed. The subdural hematoma occurred on the side of my brain that deals with language and memory. The first thing I had to overcome was a 64-day long migraine. Yes, it took 64 days for the migraine to dissipate. It was awful. Then, I had to relearn words. This was one of the most frustrating aspects to my recovery because I felt I knew the words — I could feel them hovering on the edge of knowing — but I couldn’t see or say them. My brain was a hazy fog. I also had to come to terms with all the memories I had lost. Random smells or pictures or sounds would make me feel like I should remember something, but for the life of me I could not figure out what it was. I would get so sad and depressed because I felt like my life had been stolen from me and I didn’t know how to get back on track. The brain injury also caused mood swings — one minute I would be totally normal, then I would be angry, then I would cry like a baby. All of this emotional upheaval would come suddenly and out of nowhere. I felt like I was taken hostage by a brain that needed healing and I had NO control or say over the healing process.
So why am I telling you all this? Because one of the characters in The Girl in the Painting suffers from repressed memories. When she was four, she went through something traumatic but her brain has been hiding the event from her for fifty years. I felt drawn to Elizabeth’s character because I can fully relate to her moments of frustration and mood swings caused by her lack of memory. To know something is wrong with you, but to not know what is excruciating and embarrassing. Cooper did a great job crafting Elizabeth’s character. As someone who personally dealt with memory issues, I can tell you this one facet of the story is spot on. I also have to admit to appreciating the sense of catharsis that came from reading this book. Some of the reactions and emotions that Elizabeth experiences, and then the way she acts after her memory-loss moments when she’s embarrassed by her sudden and seemingly out-of-character outbursts, made me feel so not alone. I wasn’t crazy when I was going through my episodes. I just had a hurt brain that needed to heal just like the protagonist of this story has.
I know my review is super personal and totally random, but I think it still reflects what a unique story The Girl in the Painting is. This book has it all — a well-written and highly engaging plot, mystery that kept me turning pages well into the night, and amazing attention to historical detail, so much so I felt like I was transported back in time to early 20th century Australia. This book is stellar and is not one you will want to miss.
I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from Thomas Nelson Publishers via NetGalley in order to review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.