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The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque

by Jeffrey Ford

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4071648,775 (3.71)16
A mysterious and richly evocative novel, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque tells the story of portraitist Piero Piambo, who is offered a commission unlike any other. The client is Mrs. Charbuque, a wealthy and elusive woman who asks Piambo to paint her portrait, though with one bizarre twist: he may question her at length on any topic, but he may not, under any circumstances, see her. So begins an astonishing journey into Mrs. Charbuque's world and the world of 1893 New York society in this hypnotically compelling literary thriller.… (more)
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
A nifty little mystery set in 19th century New York. The artist takes on an impossible commission - painting the portrait of a woman he may not ever see. The conversations with Mrs. Charbuque get stranger as the artist becomes more obsessed with her and his vision of her. A dark fairy tale mixed with the grotesque. (December 07, 2004) ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
A clever premise -- a bored and unhappy portrait painter is hired by the mysterious Mrs. Charbuque to paint her portrait, with one catch; he can't ever see her. From behind a screen she will answer any question, but no peeking. If he manages to capture her image, he will win enough money to free him from the necessity of portraiture and allow him to be an artist again -- masterfully written. The truly clever part of this is that we as readers are in the same position as the painter--we only know Mrs. Charbuque through the stories she tells, and we make our (badly misguided or flatly wrong, in my case) guesses and assumptions about her along with the main character. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
The premise of this book is fabulous but the execution is a little iffy. I struggled with the objectification even though the idea of the objectification is tackled in the book. I loved the mystery at the core but there were definitely moments that I got frustrated. ( )
  Brainannex | Oct 26, 2013 |
Reread October 2011. Gripping and strange. Precisely detailed and incredibly well written. A little-known artistic masterpiece. ( )
  malrubius | Apr 2, 2013 |
*note to self. Copy from A.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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“For Lynn,
singular, mysterious, and beautiful”
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Much to my unease, Mrs. Reed positioned herself, all evening, beneath or immediately to either side of her new portrait.
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A mysterious and richly evocative novel, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque tells the story of portraitist Piero Piambo, who is offered a commission unlike any other. The client is Mrs. Charbuque, a wealthy and elusive woman who asks Piambo to paint her portrait, though with one bizarre twist: he may question her at length on any topic, but he may not, under any circumstances, see her. So begins an astonishing journey into Mrs. Charbuque's world and the world of 1893 New York society in this hypnotically compelling literary thriller.

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