October 07, 2011
Beauty by Susan Wilson
Alix Miller is an artist and has taken a job painting the portrait of reclusive Lee Crompton. For centuries, Miller's have been painting portraits of the Cromptons and this time it will be no different, except it will be Alix instead of her father. She arrives at the secluded home and doesn't get to meet her subject right away. Instead, there is a partially cold housekeeper/cook and a simple-minded caretaker. She doesn't meet Lee for a couple days and when she does, has a mild shock. Lee suffers from Acromegaly and has been hideously disfigured. This is the reason he has become a recluse and mainly hides himself from the world. He only invited Alix because it was a tradition in his family.
Alix grows fond of Lee but before she can finish the portrait, she has to go home as her father is failing fast from cancer. During this poignant time in her life she finds herself growing closer to Lee, and further from Mark, her handsome but career driven boyfriend. Lee is there for her as only the best of friends can be while Mark seems to have trouble making any time for Alix and her feelings. To make matters more complicated, Lee is afraid of allowing anyone too close as he can't believe anyone would truly love him with his deformity. To add even more into this, his housekeeper wants to protect him and circumstances seem to take him further and further away from Alix, despite what they both want.
The characters in this book are wonderful. Alix is bright and engaging and you can really feel her relish in her work and her happiness with creating art. Lee is aloof but really a gentle wonderful person and you can't help but like him. To further that, Wilson paints Mark as an unlikable character so it really is quite easy to cheer for Lee instead of him. The other characters, although their parts are small, also add quite a bit to the novel.
The writing is easy to read, although Wilson does tend to make it a bit flowery at times. There really isn't too much offensive in it aside from that fact that it is hard to read how Lee is treated at times. I do have to say (without giving too much away) that despite how well the ending was written, I was largely disappointed with it. Most of the book is written from Alix's perspective although the epilogue and the last part of the book are written from Lee's. This is kind of unusual because Lee is a writer in this novel and you would think he'd be the narrator because of this.
I do enjoy this book every time I read it and will make it a plan to read some of Wilson's other works. If they are as well written as this, they're sure to please.