A review of Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

Reviewed by Carole McDonnell

Memory Painter
by Gwendolyn Womack
Picador
April 2015, 336 pages, ISBN: 978-1250053039

In The Memory Painter, Bryan Pierce is a brilliant painter; Linz Jacobs is a brilliant scientist. What do these brilliant people have in common? When the story begins, Bryan has become accustomed to sudden desperate urges to paint scenes he sees in his dreams. One day, he meets Linz who recognizes one of the scenes in his paintings and it becomes clear that they are destined lovers.

Because they are characters in a fantasy romance, they are not only brilliant but also trying to save the world for millenias. Except that in this life, they have the burden of trying to remember how special they were in their past lives. They also have a nemesis who has dogged their love and purpose throughout the ages.

These two lovers have always been notables. And once one accepts the premise that great folks always live great lives no matter how and where and when they re-incarnate, one will have fun with this book. Lovers of romance and the reincarnation trope will also like this book.

The Memory Painter is essentially American reincarnation romantic super-hero mystery fantasy. It follows the basic American template of progressivism, romance, and spirituality. The main characters are like the ones we usually find in romance fantasy, spiritual stories, and comic book: they are perfect, beautiful, in jeopardy, more enlightened than everyone else.

Despite all that, the author makes the story come together and the book is a light fun summer read, especially for those who like dabbling in reincarnation stories. Being a historical fantasy with a spiritual sub-plot the story also brings past social mores, politics, and people from far-flung places to life, as the reader and protagonists rush about from ancient Egypt, through Russia, to other parts unknown.

The main plot is a mystery: who is out to destroy the lovers and why? The sub-plot seems to be about the suppression of truth by certain types of bad folks. The book is a page-turner, but its perfectly beautiful, perfectly wonderful special snowflake characters might be too much for some readers who might not be in the mood to read for the ultra-enlightened, ultra-beautiful saving the world yet again. But readers who like romance will like it.

The book is fantasy, but it is light fantasy of the kind that mainstream readers –those who don’t generally read fantasy– would consider fantasy. So, hard-core fantasy lovers, especially those who read fantasies from publishing houses that specialize in fantasy should not look for world-building or any of the thematic questions one would find in normal fantasy. It’s best to think of this as a good summer romance novel.

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