Painter of Silence-Georgina Harding
It is the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of the hospital in Iasi, Romania. He is deaf and mute, but a young nurse named Safta recognizes him from the past and brings him paper and pencils so that he might draw. Gradually, memories appear on the page: the man is Augustin, the cook's son at the manor house at Poiana where Safta was the privileged daughter. Born six months apart, they had a connection that bypassed words, but while Augustin's world stayed the same size, Safta's expanded to embrace languages, society, and a fleeting love one long, hot summer. But then came war, and in its wake a brutal Stalinist regime, and nothing would remain the same.
It was nice to read. The language is a bit poetic and definitely full of beauty but I found no point to it. I didn't feel much like I was in Romania-Romania was supposedly evoked by a few historical bits sprinkled here and there and the mild sense of oppression. The characters didn't seem to grow or change even when there was opportunity to do so. I was in such a state of apathy that the ending didn't give me any surprise because there wasn't much to react to and the characters didn't really react either.
This book would have immediately evaporated from my memory were not for my anger at the deafie as a plot device. I thought this would be an interesting book because being a non-lingual deaf within a hearing society is difficult as it is, but being deaf within a war is even worse. But Augustin wasn't a person-he was a romanticized plot device. There was no real consistency in his communication. He couldn't speak, was called dumb, so he drew-the only way he had. How poetic? It was simply to make the whole thing seem almost mystical and dreamy. It was the great mystery! What did the deaf man have in his head? And then it was even odder, the plot hinged on the drawings which were supposedly nice and complicated but they were described so clinically. Harding dodged some bullets but overall I found the novel to hover between super-crip mentality, exoticism, and the plot problem that needed to be solved for the plot to occur.
I can see why it's been critically acclaimed. The language is lovely and the whole thing is a bit atmospheric but that's by hearing people. I wonder what other deaf people think of Augustin.