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The Road to Urbino by Roma Tearne
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The Road to Urbino

by Roma Tearne

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1411,046,152 (3.17)16
Ras, a Sri Lankan who fled his country as a child following the violent death of his mother and his father's disappearance, has committed a crime. Dogged by his past and unable to come to terms with the killing of his mother, he struggles to make a new life for himself in the UK. Alex has loved Dee since he was 19 but failed to realise that it was a love he wouldn't find again. After Dee's marriage, he too struggles to build a meaningful life for himself. But when Ras' and Alex's lives connect, each man takes a new path culminating for Ras in the theft of a della Franceso painting, while Alex comes ever closer to Dee through tragedy in her life.… (more)

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This novel is very different in story and style than Roma Tearne's earlier four novels, and it's exciting to see growth and change in a writer. What she did keep is her wonderful flair for painting word images, her concern for the victims of war, the use of art in healing pain, her explorations of memory, and the settings of Sri Lanka, England, and Italy.

The story follows two protagonists. The first is Ras, a middle aged immigrant from Sri Lanka, as he awaits trial in London for stealing The Flagellation, by Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca.

Through his first person narration, we hear about his early childhood in Sri Lanka, where his father disappeared one night and his mother died in a bomb blast. He and his brother spent most of the next years in a Tamil detention centre, until they had a chance to escape to England at the age of 19 and start a new life. Ras marries and has a child, Lola, and then divorces. He ends up working as gallery attendant at the National Gallery, where he is befriended by the charming and kind art curator, Charles.

The second protagonist is Alex, a friend of Charles. Through Alex, we get a fuller picture of the life of Charles and his wife Delia. They, and their circle of friends, spend a lot of fabulous summers in Italy, enjoying la dolce vita--art, food, company, etc. Being a Roma Tearne novel, some sad tragic events occur that change everything.

Everyone in this novel is consumed by an obsession, wherein we find the source of most of the conflict. But all the characters are also scared by war--even though the wars were thousands of miles away, or decades in the past.

It took me about 30 or 40 pages to warm up to it, but then I loved this novel. I actually wasn't ready for it to end, or to leave these characters lives (I especially liked Charles and Delia), which is really unusual for me with any book. ( )
3 vote Nickelini | Aug 14, 2012 |
Tearne's training as a painter shows in the subtle descriptions that fill each page with lyrical power, and the beautiful detail that provides a respite from the emotional desolation each character struggles with. This could be devastating, but in Tearne's skilled and sensitive hands the effect is softened, almost redemptive, making the novel a satisfying read.
 
Tearne is also an acclaimed artist and her love of painting infuses the book. She draws a vivid portrait of Tuscany's landscape. Its light, colours and texture throw into sharp relief the drab grey of Ras's prison cell. As well as dwelling on love and loss, The Road to Urbino is about the redeeming power of art.
 
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