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June 13, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: The Painter by Peter Heller

PainterThe Painter
by Peter Heller
Narrated by Mark Deakins

Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Format: Audio, 11 hours | 26 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate
Rating: 3½ of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.

My Thoughts:

Jim is a troubled man. He spends his days painting and fishing and trying to move beyond the pain of losing his wife and daughter. He’s done things he’s not proud of, he’s spent time in jail for almost killing a man and lives by his own moral code. When he intervenes and stops a man from beating a horse, he sets in motion an unstoppable chain of events.

I enjoyed the setting – the wilderness and nature. The prose is beautiful and descriptive, and the image of the landscape comes to life. But as much as I loved the scenery and the surroundings, I couldn’t warm up to most of the characters. Except for Jim’s neighbor, Willy, who seemed like a decent guy, these were not endearing individuals.

While I did like the story, I didn’t always like the way it unfolded. There was a lot of violence and actions that made me cringe. When a story begins with animal abuse (not a spoiler, it’s in the publisher’s synopsis), it makes me uneasy. And I suppose that was the point. This was a very character driven novel with many flawed and a few very repugnant characters. The pacing was uneven, at times slow and plodding, as we would listen to Jim’s lengthy meditation while fly fishing, and then a quick shift to intense action and violence.

I thoroughly enjoyed Heller’s first novel, The Dog Stars, and jumped at a chance to read an early copy of The Painter. And while I did like parts of the story and the wonderful writing, it bordered on being a little too depressing for my tastes. For those who savor a somber character with questionable morals, it will be a satisfying read.

Audio Production:

The book was narrated by Mark Deakins who did a superb job keeping the story moving and holding my attention. He expertly relayed the emotion and angst that Jim was feeling. I read some of the book in print, but I preferred listening as Deakins’ narration and voice for Jim made the story come alive.

Audio sample:

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Beth F / Jun 13 2014 7:37 am

    Bummer. This is currently my favorite book of the year. I loved, loved, loved it. And I both read it and then listened to it.


    • Leslie / Jun 13 2014 10:34 am

      A lot of people loved it which is why I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it. I like Heller’s writing and the uneven pacing wouldn’t bother me if I liked the characters or could even relate to them a little bit.


  2. BermudaOnion / Jun 13 2014 7:50 pm

    I don’t mind somber stories but this is probably not a good time for me to read one.


  3. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jun 14 2014 4:39 pm

    I think I have this in book format….. now to decide which way to go… book or audio 🙂


  4. Leeswammes / Jun 17 2014 6:33 am

    I agree with you, this book was a little depressing and slow in places. I didn’t like it half as much as I liked The Dog stars.


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