Cover Image: Nightshade


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Member Reviews

A disappointment. I was expecting better and different from this author, not this schematic and sour portrait of the artist. Eve is unconvincing, as an artist and a character. The setting has interest but is overlarded with artistic references. The length is absurd for the content, the central love affair predictable and the conclusion Grand Guignol. So, as I said, disappointing.
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I appreciated the writing, but did not enjoy the slow story or the unlikeable protagonist. The writing in itself is the best part of this book, but you certainly have to be in the mood for that particular reading experience. Since Nightshade is about an artist, let's say that if it were a painting, I would have found myself appreciating the artist's talent, perhaps even particular parts like the color and composition, but when I stepped back and looked at the whole, I wasn't terribly interested and wanted to move on. 

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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In Nightshade, Eve Laing is a driven London artist who, despite her success and renown as a painter, finds herself plagued by a string of personal and professional upheavals. As she travels through the city, both underground and above, she reminisces on the experiences and events that got her to where she is that day. 

Throughout her long career, Eve has tried to separate herself from her earliest exposure as a former lover and subject of famous portrait painter Florian Kis in her art school days. She has also been shadowed by her often competitive relationship with a former friend and fellow artist, Wanda Wilson. The critics, too, often fail to see the meaning and depth behind Eve's work, dinging her for her "feminine" subject matter--highly technical and exacting paintings of flowers and plants.

Now, having reached the age of 60, in a comfortable if tepid marriage to a successful architect, and with an adult daughter she seems to barely tolerate, Eve embarks on a grand new project, featuring the world's most poisonous plants, on canvases large and small, on film, and preserved in herbariums. Central to this biggest effort of her career is the spark of inspiration, drive, and confidence she finds with a much younger man named Luka--who literally has the power to change everything for her.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
AnnaLena McAfee slowly unveils the life of Eva Laing, an artist who was once the muse of an infamous painter and is now an artist herself. In the course of an evening walk in London and shared through a series of flashbacks we learn her sacrifice of career for family, jealousies over a college roommates success as a conceptual artist, the influence of her younger lover Luka and the suffering she experiences for her art. Eve is difficult, selfish, complex and a chameleon of sorts. Her character is so beautifully written that I felt an array of emotions and had difficulty deciding if I liked or disliked her.
This is an interesting, introspective read that takes several chapters to increase the momentum but the end result is well worth it.
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A few posts ago, I stated that I'd had several books I DNF because they just weren't of my interest.  Normally I've been the person who finishes a book no matter how uninterested I am.  However, with so many books to read and with so little time, I gotta keep moving.

The Subjects - I read about halfway through the book and realized I didn't know what was going on.  Then I decided it was time to stop.

Nightshade - Within about 20 pages, I knew it wasn't the book for me.  The writing seemed all over the place, and nothing was holding me.  So then I read another 20 pages - or tried to - and knew I had to move on.

Ink & Sigil - This is the one I was most hopeful for of the three DNF.  It seemed pretty good at first.  A little bit of Highland folklore and Scottish culture.  But then, like the other two, I found myself disinterested.  There's just too many things to be doing then hanging on to a book you're not interested in.

Oh well.  On to the next ones.

2/5 Stars
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For a good many pages, I found myself wondering where this novel was heading.  The framework is an hours'-long walk through cold, wet, London at Christmastime by Eve Laing, a famous painter in her early sixties.  It isn't initially clear what her purpose or destination could be, but she passes and reflects on  every significant location from her life in the city.  Although the book is written in the third person, Eve is really the narrator and the reader comes to suspect and then realize that Eve's perceptions of herself and her experiences verge on the delusional.  Her journey is a bit like Leopold Bloom's wending his way through Dublin, remembering milestones in his life at various stops on a particular day in June.  Eve frequently experiences a terrible sense of dread, but continues her trek nonetheless.
     Eve had a difficult early life and grew into a self-centered artist whose professional ambition drove everything in her adult life.  All of her relationships boost her career and/or her faltering sense of self.  The book is very concerned with the age-old argument as to "what is true art?".  Eve has become famous mainly through series of botanical paintings that she considers to be more important than just dainty ladies' pictures.  Her friend from art school days has become even more famous by doing performance "art" and making sexually-focused exhibits that, for example, feature used sanitary products hanging from the ceiling. These two women come to hate each other due to their decades-long rivalry over their careers and men.
     This is definitely not a book to skim through or read for plot points.  The psychology of this woman is the focus and it bears close reading.  The writing is extraordinary, warranting a great deal of underlining and many margin notes for the appreciative reader.  The choice of words is so precise and original, it resembles petit point.  It's not a funny book but it is very witty.  Eve is very intelligent and erudite, and when she wants a dart to land, it's always a bullseye.  One of my favorite scenes is the dinner party where all the guests are pretentious and hoping to advance their fortunes by making a serendipitous connection.
     I must have Joyce on the brain, but the end of "Nightshade" reminds me of the end of "The Dead", in which snow slowly falls, eventually enveloping all of Dublin as one character experiences a tragic realization.  There is a very small shift of awareness in Eve at the end in a conversation with a homeless woman, but I wouldn't put it in the category of an epiphany.
     The book ends with a doozy of a surprise.  I did not see it coming, but maybe more perceptive readers will have an intuition about it.  All in all, this is a wonderful reading experience.
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Eve Laing is a 60-something conceptual artist who works on large-scale botanical images, recently divorced from her superstar architect husband, and having a torrid affair with her 30-something male assistant. One night, she journeys from her former marital home in posh west London to her studio in scrubby east London, dumping her entire life story in undigestible chunks and mean-spirited rants against her daughter, ex-husband, and ex-friends from the art world. I found the narrative to be plodding and monotonous, and while every novel doesn't need a relatable protagonist, I found Eve to be an insufferably mean-spirited narcissistic sociopath.
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When I requested this ARC, I thought the premise sounded interesting:  A renowned artist, fed up with domestic life triggers a series of events that lead to the implosion of her life/social standing/etc. in order to create her greatest works of art which happen to be depictions of the world's deadliest flowers.  The cover is beautiful, which helped in my decision to request, but this book is much more than what I was expecting. 

Something readers need to know going in is that this is a slow burn sort of book.  It's told from the perspective of Eve, though in a third-person, detached narrator sort of style that mirrors the sophisticated, yet frenzied thoughts of the main character.  This is also an introspective book, dealing with issues that women struggle with everyday  - motherhood, guilt, depression, anxiety, etc.  These are not issues that are exclusive to women by any means, but they are the themes that are dealt with in this book, though not always explicitly.  All the while, Eve is suffering for her art and some of the suffering is self-inflicted.  

It takes a while to really get going, as other reviewers have noted and I agree.  Like I said, slow-burn.  This is a novel you want to pick up when you're tired of romance novels and want something different that it's sci-fi or fantasy.  This is the book you pick up when you are feeling mischievous!  I loved the poetic and frantic style of the prose!  The story is largely told in flashbacks, but there are some details included in a masterful way that bring you to the street in London at night time, or into the studio.  Some words I had to look up, but I felt it was a learning opportunity and they absolutely fit the intellect and depth of the character.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book!  This is my honest review.
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Nightshade is the perfect example of a complex, slow burn, character-driven novel. We meet Eve, an artist as she begins a nighttime walk through London, through flashbacks the reader is given a glimpse into her past and her lover, Luka. While I enjoyed Nightshade, it took a good deal of the book for her story to gain momentum. I fear some readers may give up on this story before they reach that point. Eve is a complex character that needs to simmer with the reader. This is a beautiful read about a fascinating woman. Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Eve Lang is a celebrated artist, famous for her work with flowers. Her newest work will be panels depicting the world’s deadliest plants. Never one to do anything by half measures, Eve “poisons” her own life, blowing up her marriage for a love affair with a much younger homeless man. The story centers around Eve reminiscing about her life, the decisions she’s made, the people she’s met and the bridges she’s burned. While this story had the potential to be so much more, it ended up being a narcissistic look at a character that wasn’t likable or relatable
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