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The Crack Magazine

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Book of the Month: Tiepolo Blue by James Cahill

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was a Venetian painter who was around in the 18th century. He is sometimes described as the last of the great Old Masters. In James Cahill’s debut novel, Professor Don Lamb – who teaches art history at Cambridge – is an expert on Tiepolo and is currently writing a book about the artist, specifically the blue skies that feature in his frescos. It’s 1994 and a new breed of artists are making waves in the UK. When one of them is commissioned to install an artwork in the quadrangle of Peterhouse College – ‘Sick Bed’ (strong echoes of Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’) – Lamb is aghast, so much so that he lambasts the piece on a BBC Radio 4 arts show. This doesn’t go down well with the new master of the college (who was previously a mover and shaker at Channel 4) and Lamb, feeling the tide turning against him, ups sticks and moves to London where he is given the chance to take up a role at the Brockwell Collection (the Dulwich Picture Gallery in all but name). The supremely repressed Lamb is beautifully drawn – his obsession with Tiepolo’s skies acting as a pointed metaphor for the barrenness of his life: how he obsesses over the space around people, rather than the people themselves. But while in London he is subject to a sensual awakening – as well as other revelations – and he must decide what direction he wants his life to take. Enthralling stuff. RM

Published by Sceptre

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