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Book review: “The Very Picture of You” by Isabel Wolff

“The Very Picture of You' is a romantic novel about artistic aspirations and family secrets.
BY Betty Lytle Published: June 17, 2012

Just in time for summer reading, Isabel Wolff's “The Very Picture of You” (Bantam, $15 paperback) is available in paperback.

Gabriella Graham, “Ella” to her family and friends, is 35 and has made a name for herself as a portrait artist in London. She can capture the truth in her subjects' faces and has earned commissions from royalty and regular people alike.

She started drawing when she was a child. Her father abandoned the family when she was 5, and she has kept on attempting to create his likeness, although she could not picture his face after a few years. Her mother will not talk about him.

Her sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American who works in London. Ella overhears a phone conversation he has with an unknown woman and suspects he is being unfaithful. Chloe asks Ella to paint his portrait, and she agrees. As the painting progresses, she finds that Nate is not what she thought he was.

Ella's other subjects include an elderly woman, another woman who is turning 40, and a young cyclist who was killed in a wreck. She learns there is more to her subjects than what shows on the surface. There is wisdom, heartache, love and compassion.

When Ella's father contacts her, she finds most of what her mother has told her about him is untrue.

This is a beautifully written story of friendship, love, deception and remorse, with a touch of mystery.

— Betty Lytle