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Still Life

de Sarah Winman

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4712944,630 (4.17)85
A Good Morning America Book Club Pick   A captivating, bighearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood, and the ghost of E. M. Forster, by the celebrated author of Tin Man. Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her own youth. In each other, Ulysses and Evelyn find a kindred spirit amidst the rubble of war-torn Italy, and set off on a course of events that will shape Ulysses's life for the next four decades.   As Ulysses returns home to London, reimmersing himself in his crew at The Stoat and Parot--a motley mix of pub crawlers and eccentrics--he carries his time in Italy with him. And when an unexpected inheritance brings him back to where it all began, Ulysses knows better than to tempt fate, and returns to the Tuscan hills. With beautiful prose, extraordinary tenderness, and bursts of humor and light, Still Life is a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, and a deeply drawn celebration of beauty and love in all its forms. … (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 28 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Oh my. What a sad day it was when I finished Still Life. We've all read books like this. Books that become part of our daily lives. I connected so strongly with these characters that I physically miss hearing them speak to me. The writing skills - "Tired, kind face with the keenest blue eyes that looked at him as if he was a meadow of wildflowers." Wouldn't you like to be looked at with that sort of joy! To be continued...... ( )
  Fliss88 | Sep 18, 2022 |
Chronicles the lives of Ulysses Temper, a soldier in Florence who encounters the art critic Evelyn Skinner, Temps' wife (and then ex) Peg, her daughter Alys, and a whole host of other interconnected characters, including a Shakespeare-quoting parrot named Claude, in Florence and London from 1944 to 1979.

This book fell in that frustrating place of one that was well-crafted and I admired the author's ability to do exactly what she set out to do, but one that left me rather cold. I couldn't get past the fact that there were no quotation marks, a pet peeve of mine, which made reading it work and the story difficult to sink into. It was, perhaps, too similar to a couple of books I read recently - Afterlife also had no quotations marks, and Zorrie also covered a simple life over several decades, but I liked each of them better. There were literary and artistic references, memorable characters, beautiful descriptions of food, and yet I was never invested. ( )
  bell7 | Aug 23, 2022 |
“The most beautiful words in the world, said Ulysses. Against. All. Odds”

“Daylight beautifies and moonlight mystifies”

“Oldest story in the world…Grief…Just a lot of fucking grief”

Winman’s writing most definitely makes you feel all the feels. I laughed, I cried and I wanted to pack my bags and move to Florence. The characters, the scenery and the art were central to this story and were wonderfully depicted. Winman has a way of drawing you into the lives of her characters and giving you hope for the human race.

My favourite characters were Claude, Cress and Ulysses. Claude was fantastically funny, fiercely intelligent and always knew the right (and sometimes the wrong) thing to say. Cress was wise beyond his years with a well-versed manner that was at odds to his upbringing. Ulysses was simply a beautiful man with an old soul, who continually conveyed deep love and devotion to those important to him.

The ending wasn’t quite as I hoped, I can’t decide if I would have preferred Evelyn’s story to have been covered earlier. I’m also unsure of the inclusion of EM Forster, it just didn’t ‘fit’. Overall though, I really enjoyed this and came away with a number of charming quotes. ( )
  moosenoose | Aug 10, 2022 |
I almost gave up on this one early on, but I'm really glad that I stayed with it. The story begins in Italy in World War II when an English soldier, Ulysses Temper, and his inspiring commanding officer join forces with Evelyn Skinner, an art historian bent on saving the treasures of Florence from destruction. The novel then follows these two characters--mostly Ulysses--through the next three decades and a bit beyond. Upon his return to London after the war, he rejoins an interesting group of friends who frequent or work at a pub called The Story and Parrot. There's the surly pub owner, Col, who is raising a mentally challenged daughter, Ginny, on his own. Cressy, an older man who can fix anything, communes with a beloved tree, and acts as a kind of father figure to Ullyses. Peg, a sexy woman with a mesmerizing singing voice; she's Ulysses ex-wife and still sometimes lover. Alys (aka kid), Peg's daughter conceived from a brief affair with an American soldier that she can't forget. Pete, a piano player and actor. And Claude, a parrot who not only talks (frequently spouting Shakespeare) but actually converses and comprehends what's going on around him.

Life changes for everyone when Ulysses unexpectedly inherits property in Florence. He has longed to return to the city since the war ended and decides that a move is in order. At Peg's pleading, he takes Alys, now seven, with him. Author Winman does a wonderful job of depicting the historic city, its marvelous food, and the relaxed lifestyle of the locals. Ulysses makes new friends but maintains his old ones through periodic visits, some of which turn out to be more than temporary. We watch Alys growing up and everyone else growing older, but the love between friends only deepens. That, for me, was the true heart of the novel.

As for Evelyn, Ulysses has never forgotten her, not she him, so it's inevitable that eventually they will meet again. We get bits of her life story woven into the book but more detail in the later sections, one of which focuses on her first visit to Florence. There are thematic ties between Evelyn and other characters, and even to a well-known novel set in Florence, but I'll leave readers to discover these for themselves.

Art, of course, plays an important role, as the title suggests. And like a still life painting that seems frozen in time yet changes in the viewer's perception as his or her own life experiences play out, the friendships in the novel, too, remain the same while weathering many changes.

I really enjoyed 'Still Life' and the world and characters the author creates. It left me feeling more positive about the human race than I have in a long time. I admire Winman's writing--her ability to create unique, memorable characters and to immerse her reader in her setting and her fusion of a framework with her themes. I will definitely be looking into her other books. ( )
  Cariola | Aug 7, 2022 |
This is a story that takes place over a lifetime, and while the situations and circumstances that transpire are important, memorable, and achingly beautiful even in their tragic moments, it’s truly the lives of the characters themselves that make it so moving.

Ulysses was a soul to remember. He went into the war a boy and came out a changed man, but in all the right ways. He cared deeply, still saw the hope in humanity, reached out a helping hand to those in need with no thought as to how it would be repaid, and just generally had a heart the size of the globes he eventually creates.

Alys we get to know and love as small child through tumultuous teen years and into her young adulthood. She had a rough start in life and was given every reason to feel ultimately rejected, but I truly believed what saved her at every turn...was love. She had an old soul, and understood so much more than someone her age would normally, but the love that surrounded her, no matter how nontraditionally woven, was her safety net. It was what she felt deep down and knew even in those questioning days that she could fall back on without glancing back to be sure of its presence.

Cress was oddly enough, another heart at the center point of this tale. You don't expect it, in fact, he comes off as rather unusual and eccentric, with no particular background to speak of, but experience in life has a lot to say for itself. He reminds us that we all have roots, and the world is constantly trying to show us that fact, while telling us in its own subtle ways, which blow of the wind to follow; if only we'd LISTEN.

Evelyn we meet once upon a war mission, but she is such a lady of stature, such a woman of heart, such a force for the art world that even though there are bombs flying through the air, she, Ulysses, and the Captain are able to make a moment that will live on in time. Their story's part ways for many years, and we get to know them apart in their own worlds as time ticks by, but when the moment is finally right, their reunion is that much more precious, that much more appreciated, and cherished.

Claude was the mouthy parrot that never said die. He lived quite an adventurous life, and accomplished well more than any parrot I've ever known, including the ability to understand random human conversations, and dole out advice befitting the situation. Peg was the girl that got away, and yet she and Ulysses had their moment...scattered through time, but there nonetheless. It was obvious she trusted him with her soul, but her heart was always on the tear for something bigger, better, out there in the great wide world...which makes the lessons she learns inadvertently along the way, that much more heartbreaking. Col could've just been the local bar owner, but he was such a big presence, along with his gentle souled daughter, Ginny. He was there when they needed him, and despite his easily raised temper, and unusual mode of transportation, he could always be counted on.

In the end, this is a story very fitting its title...still life as observed in art, but also in the sense of even after everything happens, still life unfolds. I know I pretty much wrote a detailed "who's who" for the story (more is actually on my site review!), but there are still so many people you have to meet, so much more to learn about the ones I've mentioned, I promised I've overshared nothing. If you're looking for a story that checks all the boxes, makes you think, laugh, love, and cry over a silly old bird that wasn't quite so silly, don't imitate a still life portrait; add this title to your wish list today!


**ecopy received for review, but I bought one for myself too; opinions are my own ( )
1 vota GRgenius | Jul 31, 2022 |
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Somewhere in the Tuscan hills, two English spinsters, Evelyn Skinner and a Margaret someone, were eating a late lunch on the terrace of a modest albergo.
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A Good Morning America Book Club Pick   A captivating, bighearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood, and the ghost of E. M. Forster, by the celebrated author of Tin Man. Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her own youth. In each other, Ulysses and Evelyn find a kindred spirit amidst the rubble of war-torn Italy, and set off on a course of events that will shape Ulysses's life for the next four decades.   As Ulysses returns home to London, reimmersing himself in his crew at The Stoat and Parot--a motley mix of pub crawlers and eccentrics--he carries his time in Italy with him. And when an unexpected inheritance brings him back to where it all began, Ulysses knows better than to tempt fate, and returns to the Tuscan hills. With beautiful prose, extraordinary tenderness, and bursts of humor and light, Still Life is a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, and a deeply drawn celebration of beauty and love in all its forms. 

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