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The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos - Dominic Smith While I enjoyed the story and the writing, I was disappointed with other aspects of this book.

The passages of Ellie and Marty meeting up in their later years were touching. As was Marty's refusal to impose his possible unexpected death on strangers should he go travelling, & his shoulders disappearing in his suit. Passages such as these give the reader a touching glimpse into the experience of ageing.

I also really enjoyed the imagining of the character Sara and her expression of her emotional life in her paintings. Her need to 'paint to order' to earn money was a good source of tension in the novel.

What disappointed me most was the research. Smith clearly thoroughly researched methods of art forgery. But if he went to the trouble of finding out what 17th century art tastes like, why couldn't he figure out that there was no way Ellie would have shoplifted from Woolworths in Balmain as a girl? Woolworths didn't open a store there until the 1970s. Furthermore, growing up there, I never saw a naval yard. There were lots of shipyards, and I played in many of them as a child, none of them were naval yards.

There were also parts that lacked plausibility. In the time when Ellie was growing up in Balmain, gentrification of the suburb was yet to start and it was highly unlikely a ferryman could have afforded to sent a daughter to boarding school. Having her attend Fort Street selective high school, or if she was Catholic, Saint Scholasticas, would have been a more plausible alternative and provide for her immersion in the art world as a child.

All in all, Smith's knowledge of Balmain seems to hark from the 1980s rather than the late 1950s, which was the setting of Ellie's early life.

There were also other aspects of the story that were clumsy to say the least. His description of Ellie's taxi journey from Sydney Uni to the Art Gallery was confusing & not straight forward, from the perspective of someone who spent over half their life in Sydney, as was Ellie and Marty's walk from the Art Gallery to the Sheraton on the Park. As a result the novel did not evoke Sydney for me and in fact interfered with the sense of place in the story.

So while I really enjoyed the book, there were parts that showed a lack of research and detracted from my enjoyment of it.