The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill

Alright, I’ve been putting this one off. First, though.

On our second day in Boston, Mother and I had a cannoli and some chocolate cake for breakfast in Little Italy, and then walked to the Science Museum. After that our day was unstructured, and our plan was to return to Little Italy for dinner and then ride the T to Fanieul Hall, where we would wile away the hours until it was time to return home. When it was actually time to board the T, though, we looked at our map to find out which line to get on, and Mother and I ran into a disagreement.

You see, I felt (wisely) that we should get off at the same stop we’d been using, by the Aquarium, as from there it was less than a five minute walk to Fanieul Hall. Mother thought she saw a little orange T the looked remotely closer and therefore would mean less walking on our tired feet, and she was so opposed to walking that she pushed and pushed that we take this line, so we did.

We did not arrive remotely close to Fanieul Hall. We found ourselves in Downtown Boston (according to some signs, I think), and just sort of started to walk. I was in the middle of berating Mother for her foolishness because we were surrounded by tall, old buildings and I didn’t see any way Fanieul Hall could be in the middle of this mess, when I abruptly cut myself off with a shrill cry of, “Books!” which was an indication that I had just seen an ornate sign reading, “Books.” A few steps further down the sidewalk was a little standing sign with an arrow that pointed us down the perfect little alleyway and towards a second-hand bookstore. I photographed what I felt to be one of the prettiest things I’d seen in Boston thus far:

We went inside and stayed for an hour or so. I found, for a combined price of $10, a paperback copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass with all of the original illustrations and a beautiful watercolor cover, barely used, and a copy of The Thirteenth Tale, which I’ve heard a lot about and now sits on my pile.

But let me show you my favorite thing about this bookstore:

When I have my own bookstore, there will be at least one Cat in Residence. (And at least one will be named Dewey.)

The less interesting part of our story involves getting on the T to south station and making it to our bus on time and, marvelously, running into a waiter from our favorite Chinese restaurant- proving that even in Boston, it is a small world after all.

On the bus, I finished my book.

The Man in the Picture is a ghost story I first heard about from Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. At the time I was really in the mood to be spooked, and when this one came in for me at the library I was pleasantly surprised by it’s tininess. Considering how long all books have taken me to read in these past few months, I don’t think I can be blamed for that. Proving my point, this supertiny book STILL took me almost a week to read.

The Man in the Picture is about a graduate student in English named Oliver, who is hearing the story from his old professor Theo of a haunted painting, one that hangs in Theo’s office and seems to snatch the lives of those who own it. The history of the painting is explored, though never so far back as to who originally painted it or why it has this mysterious curse.

To be honest, I felt the book lacked substance and it didn’t scare me at all. Of course, I read it in 10-page snatches right up until the final 40 pages, which I finished on the bus, so I never really sank my teeth into it. Mom read it shortly after I finished it, in one sitting, and she found it a bit creepy. Still, unsatisfying, with a predictable ending.

I’m already about 100 pages into my next book, which I think I’ll be able to praise a bit more. The plot is interesting, there’s substance up the wazoo, and the writing is rare and splendid. That will come in a week or so, at this rate. (I work a lot.)

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Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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