Review: The Girl In the Painting by Tea Cooper

 

Title: The Girl In the Painting

Author: Tea Cooper

Published: December 16th 2019, HQ Fiction Australia

Read: December 2019, courtesy HarperCollins

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My Thoughts:

The Girl In the Painting is an engaging historical fiction novel, with an element of mystery, from Tea Cooper.

Set largely in New South Wales during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the narrative of The Girl In the Painting moves between two timelines which connects siblings Elizabeth and Michael Ó’Cuinn with Jane Piper, a bright young orphan, who becomes their ward.

As the story unfolds we learn of the circumstances that brought Michael and Elizabeth to New South Wales from Liverpool, England in 1863 as children, and the life they make for themselves in Hills End, and later Maitland Town. It’s 1906 when the siblings offer Jane, a math prodigy, a home, a role in their business, and the chance to further her education, but the crux of the story isn’t revealed until 1913 when Elizabeth uncharacteristically experiences a panic attack at an art exhibition, prompting Jane to investigate the cause, and a startling confession from Michael. I liked the thread of intrigue that the author developed, though the resolution was a little contrived.

I really enjoyed the setting of the novel. Cooper uses real, though unconnected, historical events as a framework, from the fire in an orphanage in Liverpool, to the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, and the flooding of Maitland Town in 1913. The social and cultural details of the period, and the landscape of early Australia from the crowded streets of Sydney, to the goldfields of Hill End, and the nascent town of Maitland, are interesting and feel authentic.

Well crafted, with appealing characters, and rich in Australian historical detail, The Girl In the Painting is a novel that is sure to please.

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Available from Harlequin/ HarperCollins Australia

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