The Portrait

Iain Pears

The windswept isle of Houat, off the coast of Brittany, is no picturesque artists’ colony. At the turn of the twentieth century, life is harsh and rustic. So why did Henry MacAlpine forsake London – where he had been fêted by critics and gallery owners, his works exhibited alongside the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh – to make his home in this remote outpost? The truth begins to emerge when, four years into his exile, MacAlpine receives his first visitor. Influential art critic William Naysmith has come to the island to sit for a portrait. Over the course of the sitting, the power balance between the two men shifts dramatically as the critic whose pen could anoint or destroy careers becomes a passive subject. And as the painter struggles to capture Nasmith’s true character on canvas, a story unfolds – one of betrayal, hypocrisy, forbidden love, suicide and ultimately murder. The Portrait is a darkly atmospheric, psychologically complex, macabre and chilling novel from a master storyteller.

Reviews of The Portrait

  • Praise for An Instance of the Fingerpost:

    ‘This is a novel that combines the simple pleasures of Agatha Christie with the intellectual subtlety of Umberto Eco. It is a landmark in the genre’ John Sutherland, Sunday Times

    ‘Enthralling… An Instance of the Fingerpost is a brilliant achievement… wholly absorbing’ T.J. Binyon, Evening Standard

    ‘A slippery thriller of audacious ingenuity’ Robert Minghall, Independent on Sunday

    Praise for The Dream of Scipio:

    ‘Combining the visceral pleasures of a thriller with the more intellectual excitements of a novel of ideas…’ Sunday Telegraph

    ‘Combines dazzling erudition with assured narrative skills to offer glimpses of some of history’s darkest corners’ Independent on Sunday

    ‘Vivid, admirably imagined, ultimately very moving… This is a novel of the very highest ambition… Immediate, sensuous, beautiful’ Allan Massie, Scotsman

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