A delightful and absorbing novel about three families spanning 3 centuries whose lives are interconnected revolving around art and love.
- best book club reads -
MOLLY & THE CAPTAIN
BY ANTHONY QUINN
‘Molly & The Captain’ by Anthony Quinn is a delightful and absorbing novel about three families spanning 3 centuries whose lives are interconnected revolving around art and love. An immersive novel for December and a thoughtful gift for any lover of art and historical fiction.
The first section of the novel sets up the story of a successful artist, William Merrymount in Georgian England whose private painting of a double portrait, that of his daughters ‘Molly and the Captain’, becomes a treasured and intriguing centrepiece. Through a series of diary entries and letters written by the eldest daughter, Laura shares her perspective of her celebrated father in whose footsteps she follows, her ambition as an artist and her fear of failure living in his shadow. Laura accompanies her father from Bath to London and is immersed in the vibrant city. Her diary entries provide a window into life in the West End and later joining her sister in Kentish Town, looking back at her own misfortune in love, family secrets and how her own passion for art leads her to an unexpected masterpiece of her own making, ‘Portrait of a Young Man’.
Rolling forward into the next century readers find themselves in Kensington Gardens observing another artist, this time a young man, Paul Stransom, whose creative energies are consumed by the park’s vista and its line of elm trees that captivate and demand his attention. The subject of his painting is interrupted by a mother playing with her daughters which he paints setting off a mystery in his own mind about who they are and why they are there. Whilst preoccupied by these events his sister Maggie has becomes embroiled with Paul’s artist friends and the auction of a painting that captures her eye, that is the ‘Portrait of a Young Man’. The painting becomes a token of love and entangled in a proposal, followed by some unexpected courting.
Just as the reader comes to terms with the end of the novel’s second romantic rollercoaster and family drama, we are thrust forward to ‘80s London and back to Kentish Town in which a retiring painter and her two grown up daughters discover an ancestral link to William Merrymount and the missing double portrait. Set against a political backdrop of an election and the cultural evolution of punk we are further entertained by Billie a successful actress (a character who appears in one of Quinn's earlier novels) who discovers the Merrymount journals that we the reader have been privy to.
The three families and 3 stories make wonderful talking points in book club as we looked back in the Den at generational themes of behaviour, talents and misgivings. It was also interesting to appreciate the struggles of talented artists, the sacrifices made within families to benefit their survival and the strong bond of love.
Quinn fans can look forward to some ‘Eureka’ moments and nods to historical London artists and celebrities. A wonderful ambitious novel that you may never want to end.
Other books by the same author in the Den include ‘London Calling’, ‘Our Friends in Berlin’ and ‘Curtain Call’, the later being adapted into a period film, 'The Critic' starring Ian McKellen and Gemma Arterton (awaiting release in UK).