The Painter’s Friend
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‘One of the books of the year. Cunnell’s style is matchless: intimate, dark, sincere, wry and exquisitely beautiful’ – Irish Times
‘A cracking, urgent page-turner of a novel’ – Observer
The painter Terry Godden was on the brink of his first success. After a violent crisis, he finds himself outcast.
In his fifties, and with little money, he retreats to a small island. Arriving in the winter, the island at first seems a desolate and forgotten place. As the seasons turn, Terry begins to see the island’s beauty, and discovers that he is only one of many people who have sought refuge here. These independent outsiders, all with their own considerable struggles, have made a precarious home.
The island is owned by the business man and art collector Alex Kaplan. His decision to enforce a rent increase as he seeks to improve his property looks set to destroy this community that cannot afford to lose the little they have left. As an artist, Terry believes making the invisible struggles of the island visible to the world will help – but will his interference save anybody other than himself?
The Painter’s Friend shows the human cost of gentrification for those dispossessed. The novel also explores the role of art in protest, and asks who gets to be an artist and what they owe in return. Written with visual lyricism and driven clarity, Howard Cunnell’s incendiary story about class and resistance builds to an unforgettable climax. It is an urgent novel for our unjust times.
‘I loved it. Cunnell’s writing has an unforgettable visual and moral clarity’ – Melissa Harrison, author of All Among the Barley
I loved it. Cunnell's writing has an unforgettable visual and moral clarity -- Melissa Harrison, author of All Among the Barley His finest and most important work to date -- Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo Cunnell's prose is elegantly punchy . . . The valour of his fight is revealed in a story of what can happen when truth is considered idealism and collides with the predatory designs of a property developer. A fine book -- John Healy, author of The Grass Arena Loving in its exploration of creative survival and loss of human habitat. Every fleck and dab of verbal pigment rewards the eye and enriches the design -- Adam Mars-Jones, author of Box Hill Brilliantly plotted and the final act knocked me sideways. Huge themes told through the personal stories of very real people. It was a delight and revelation to read -- David Morrissey, actor A novel of muscular, dark prose with more than a little compassion for damaged lives. I loved it -- Ned Boulting, author of On the Road Bike It's a timely novel, but it also seems to wear its big issues lightly. The particularity and peculiarity of the setting and cast really brought it to life and gripped me -- Sara Baume, author of spill simmer falter wither
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