Friday, April 2, 2021

The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper (Book Review)

Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Book Details:

Book Title: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper
Category: Adult Fiction, 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release date: March 9, 2021
Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

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 the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

The Girl in the Painting is an enjoyable historical fiction novel set in Australia in the late 1800s during the Gold rush, with a dual timeline alternating with the early 1900s. Usually, I enjoy one timeline more than the other but in this case, I was equally interested in both and they come together beautifully by the end of the story.

This is both Jane's story as it is brother-and-sister duo Michael and Elizabeth's story. Jane is an orphan who is discovered to be a prodigy in math. She is taken under the wings of Michael and Elizabeth who further her schooling. As she grows into a young woman, Jane begins working alongside them in their business. When Elizabeth begins to have strange reactions to the art in an exhibit, and her mental health deteriorates, Jane's quick mind tries to gather the clues to try to discover what exactly happened to Elizabeth as a child and what mysterious past the duo has kept secret.

This was a good slow-burn mystery story with characters that are well-developed and a setting that taught me some Australian history. Jane was my favorite character and she propels the mystery forward. This is also an immigrant story brought to life when a young Michael and his little sister boarded a ship to go meet their parents in Hill's End, the rough Gold rush town filled with eager prospectors and Chinese immigrants. 

I particularly enjoyed how the author explored the psychological beliefs of certain behaviors, not yet understood at the time by the medical community. Well-written, with suspense and mystery, this historical novel is a good read. 

Disclosure: Thanks to Historical Fiction Blog Tours and Netgalley for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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About the Author:

Tea is an award-winning Australian author of historical fiction. In a past life, she was a teacher, a journalist, and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse Thief, The Cedar Cutter, The Currency Lass, The Naturalist’s Daughter, The Woman in the Green Dress, and The Girl in the Painting.

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