Review : An Object of Beauty
What it’s about :
An ambitious young woman, Lacey is ready to take the New York art market by storm. With both wits and looks on her side, Lacey has no problem making her way up the social ladder while building herself a career. But her ascension is not without risks and difficult decisions, and her actions are not without consequences – both for her and the people around her.
My Thoughts :
This is the book I had been waiting for since the start of 2011. A book that will forever stay with me and will be shelved proudly among my favorites.
This wasn’t my first experience with Steve Martin’s writing and I had already been charmed twice before. So, I was expecting something good from An Object of Beauty, especially since its subject, art, is so close to my heart. What I hadn’t expected was to be blown away by a story centering on such a character and where in truth, very little happen.
But the thing is, An Object of Beauty is much more complex than that. Though we are following Lacey’s career from the start to her later years, she sometimes felt more like a vehicle for the captivating setting of New York’s art world. Martin goes at length to describe the arts, the events, the important characters, sometimes more than is necessary for the novel. I’m guessing some readers, not enthusiasts of the art world, will get bored with the history lessons, but I personally loved each second of it. And what fiction Martin added to history to create his novel just worked perfectly.
And while the book presents its story’s as being about this ambitious young woman, it isn’t exactly about Lacey. The book is written not from the first person nor from an omniscient narrator, but by Daniel Franks, a friend of Lacey. Therefore, the narrator is unreliable in the sense that he doesn’t always know what was going on with Lacey at one point in time. He relies on what she may have told him, on what others have told him or on his own experience, but I felt it created a form of detachment between the character of Lacey and I, the reader. Rather than taking you inside Lacey’s mind and life, the book is more like meeting with a friends who tells you all about this person that he knows but that you, personally, have never met; it might make you curious about this person, but it would be hard to get attached.
The narrator also has his own purpose and that, for me, was an excellent surprise. It’s not a “twist” in itself, but more like a late development that made me go “Ah! now I get it!” It follows with a certain mysterious event happening around the middle of the book, I think, but of which we don’t know the details until close to the end.
As for Lacey, she was fascinating enough but not in an exaggerated manner. While she charms and flirts, she doesn’t sleep her way to the top but uses her instinct and her knowledge, too. And let me tell you, I loved the idea of an ambitious career woman who’s not a cheap seductress (as often portrayed in fiction), and who can charm without giving everything away. She wasn’t perfect either, but she certainly had her strengths.
Wrapped up with Martin’s excellent prose and illustrated with many of the arts mentioned, An Object of Beauty is certainly deserving of the praise it has received so far. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think those who like it will really, really like it.
As for me, I am keeping my copy on a safe shelf, to be re-read in a not so far future.