book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Still Life by Sarah Winman

May 3rd, 2022

Right after finishing this I was so close to giving it four stars, but I wasn’t sure and after giving it a few days I think it’s got to be three.

| Published: 2021, G.P. Putnams |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Themes: LGBTQ+, War, Art |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 464 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

1944, Italy. As bombs fall around them, two strangers meet in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner a 64-year-old art historian living life on her own terms. She has come to salvage paintings from the wreckage of war and relive memories of her youth when her heart was stolen by an Italian maid in a particular room with a view. Ulysses’ chance encounter with Evelyn will transform his life – and all those who love him back home in London – forever.

I wouldn’t have gotten through this book without the audiobook, which is funny because I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve listened to an audiobook. But it was available to borrow from my library and I thought I’d give it a try because I was struggling with the tone of the book and characters. An audiobook was definitely the way to go and I really like that it was read by Sarah Winman herself.

Firstly, this book is funny! It’s a certain type of humour. Very dry, very British, but it had me cracking up and that’s a rare thing to find in a book I think. There’s also a lot about art and references to E.M. Forster, so this really could have been a new favourite for me. It just didn’t end up that way.

It spans a long period of time, from WWII, to the 1960’s, and then back again to early 20th century, but despite the amount it covers, there isn’t really a whole lot of plot to this book. It more just dips in and out of the this tight-knit group of characters from London at significant moments in their lives. Sometimes this works for me, but this time I just felt like I was reading the longest book ever. There were parts where I was really invested, and parts where I just felt bored.

But the characters are captivating and beautifully drawn out for us. You definitely get a sense of who they are, and they became so endearing to me. They’re odd and eccentric, and so full of love for one another.

For a lot of people I’m sure that would be enough, but I just thought this book lacked flow, which was probably due to the lack of plot. It’s felt quite blocky and bulky and it just didn’t draw me into the novel like I wanted it to.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

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