Keith Snyder
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Just posted this review on Amazon. No plot details, because they'd all be spoilers:

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by Barry Unsworth

I don't read historical novels; I grabbed this one because the bookstore was closing in five minutes and the first page seemed interesting.

This is an excellent book. There's no history to slog through--throughout, context is implied briefly as the narrative proceeds; there are no "info dumps"--and the story is in motion by the time you get to page two. It's a tight story, a shrewd observation of the functions and origins of art, and a convincing historical setting, in that order of prominence. My reason for emphasizing this order is that I'd like people like me, who don't read historical fiction, to try this one.

There's a lot to admire, but most of it can be reduced to this: clarity. Clarity of thought, clarity of plot, clarity of language. An admirable trick in itself is the way the language seems always "period" in flavor, but is never arcane or difficult.

I've been recommending this one.

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