The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque

Jeffrey Ford / Dec 09, 2019

The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque The toast of New York society the portraitist Piero Piambo has his pick of choice assignments Acclaimed by his peers and his betters he is a fixture in the city s most opulent salons yet he fe

  • Title: The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque
  • Author: Jeffrey Ford
  • ISBN: 9780066211268
  • Page: 302
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The toast of 1893 New York society, the portraitist Piero Piambo has his pick of choice assignments Acclaimed by his peers and his betters, he is a fixture in the city s most opulent salons, yet he fears he has sold his soul to arrive there But then comes a commission unlike any other one that will test Piambo s talents, his willd his sanity.The client is a MrsThe toast of 1893 New York society, the portraitist Piero Piambo has his pick of choice assignments Acclaimed by his peers and his betters, he is a fixture in the city s most opulent salons, yet he fears he has sold his soul to arrive there But then comes a commission unlike any other one that will test Piambo s talents, his willd his sanity.The client is a Mrs Charbuque, and the offer she makes to the artist is as bizarre and intriguing as it is financially rewarding Piambo must paint the lady s portrait, and for the service he may name any price However, though he may question her at length on any topic, he must never look upon his subject And if the painting ends up a true likeness, his payment will be doubled.With sketchbook in hand and his model hidden behind an elegant screen, the artist begins his haunting descent into her life and mind Carried by her words through a strange childhood in a world of ice where she aided an obsessed, perhaps murderous, father in his study of the divine language of snowflakes and across a history marked by fame and despair, desire and rage, phantasm and myth, Piambo is alternately seduced and repulsed by the story she has to tell Yet each session leaves him determined than ever to unwrap the enigma that is Mrs Charbuque.But while he struggles to capture in oils the face of a woman he has never seen, a series of horrific and inexplicable deaths rocks the outside city On street corners, in the alleys off the bustling shopping areas, and between the crumbling tenements, anonymous women are dying, their lifeblood flowing freely like tears from their eyes And the deeper Piambo is drawn into Mrs Charbuque s world, the he begins to suspect that these terrible events, his impossible task, and his odd benefactress are somehow intimately connected.An astonishing amalgam of the works of Henry James and Raymond Chandler, Jeffrey Ford s The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque is a rare and rewarding reading experience equally satisfying as a hypnotically compelling literary work, a richly atmospheric historical novel, and a page turning thriller It will leave an indelible mark.

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    About "Jeffrey Ford"

      • Jeffrey Ford

        Jeffrey Ford is an American writer in the Fantastic genre tradition, although his works have spanned genres including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Mystery His work is characterized by a sweeping imaginative power, humor, literary allusion, and a fascination with tales told within tales He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he studied with the novelist John Gardner.He lives in southern New Jersey and teaches writing and literature at Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County He has also taught at the summer Clarion Workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers in Michigan He has contributed stories, essays and interviews to various magazines and e magazines including MSS, Puerto Del Sol, Northwest Review, Hayden s Ferry Review, Argosy, Event Horizon, Infinity Plus, Black Gate and The Magazine of Fantasy Science Fiction.He published his first story, The Casket , in Gardner s literary magazine MSS in 1981 and his first full length novel, Vanitas, in 1988.


    1. Piambo is a successful painter of New York society portraits. Feeling that he is not living up to his artistic potential, he impetuously accepts a mysterious commission from a blind man who accosts him on his way home one night. As learns the next day, he will be paid an unprecendented sum to paint Mrs. Charbuque. The catch? He cannot see her. The lady sits behind a screen and tells him a bizarre tale of her isolated childhood as the daughter and assistant of a man who believed he could learn th [...]

    2. A clever premise -- a bored and unhappy portrait painter is hired by the mysterious Mrs. Charbuque to paint her portrait, with one catch; he can't ever see her. From behind a screen she will answer any question, but no peeking. If he manages to capture her image, he will win enough money to free him from the necessity of portraiture and allow him to be an artist again -- masterfully written. The truly clever part of this is that we as readers are in the same position as the painter--we only know [...]

    3. starts out like a henry james story and then explodes into surrealist fantasy. 300 pages long and i smiled the whole way through. my only quibble is i think it may have overshot the ending by a bit, in the name of bringing us back to the "real world." i can't imagine why no one has made this into a movie. it's just sitting right there, wrapped up in a bow.

    4. This novel got inside of my skin -- I haven't figured out why yet, but it did, and I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come. It is the second of Jeffrey Ford's books that I've read (the first being The Girl in the Glass) and he does not disappoint. His writing is excellent, and there is no better way to describe his work. If you want something WAY off the beaten path, and certainly off the path of what's on the bookshelves at your local bookstore, then try this one's the basic [...]

    5. When I picked up this book, I was expecting something along the lines of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. There are a few similarities; in fact the Portrait of Dorian Gray is mentioned at the beginning of the book. Both of them lift questions they don’t really answer but that’s about as far as the similarities go. This book is actually quite hard to define and classify… it’s fiction and fantasy and mystery all at once… and then when you look back on it, there’s no real supernatural expla [...]

    6. Jeffrey Ford's novel The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque was a really good read. I debated between 4 and 5 stars, and settled on 4 because the end was a little bit of a let down. If you are reading this, you probably know the plot of The Portrait. Ford keeps up the mystery throughout the novel, and never lets the reader get tired with the mystery. All the characters, despite their odd quirkiness, are completely engaging and interesting to follow. Ford's history of New York City in the 19th century is [...]

    7. This book contains, in all seriousness, the sentence, "I was withering inside like those cut flowers ensconced in the ornate vase that was my life." Needless to say, I gave up before page fifty. (Alas for the premise. If only the /good/ writers got the good ideas! If only Jesus Christ had Rothschild's purse!)

    8. I loved Ford's book 'The Shadow Year.' I really liked his collection of short stories entitled 'Crackpot Palace.' The premise of this story (a painter commissioned to do a portrait of a woman who refuses to allow him to see her) sounded intriguing. Unfortunately, I thought this became "much ado about nothing." Although well written, the story felt like a lot of filler slowly leading up to a climax that just didn't do it for me. Nonetheless, Ford is a great writer with excellent ideas and I will [...]

    9. I've said it before and I'll gladly say it again: Jeffrey Ford is one of the best writers alive today. This book is impossible to put down -- indeed, I read it in one sitting -- and full of the color and imagination one comes to expect from Ford.I have to admit, I was disappointed with the end, which was a lot more sedate and pedestrian than what I was hoping for. The ending does bring a certain amount of peace to some characters who deserve it, but I was really hoping for -- and expecting -- a [...]

    10. Portret pani Charbuque. Asystentka pisarza fantasy to kolejna pozycja z serii Uczta Wyobraźni wydawnictwa Mag, która składa się ze zbioru opowiadań i powieści tego samego autora. Taka mnogość różnych tworów w jednej książce nastręcza sporo trudności w jednoznacznej ocenie dzieła - bo czy pozwolić kilku średnim opowiadaniom znacznie zaniżyć ewaluację wspaniałej powieści lub odwrotnie? Czy może przymknąć oko na niedociągnięcia długiej formy i pozwolić sobie na pełen [...]

    11. An engaging, poised novel that makes a great use of its central premise: a painter is hired to paint a portrait of a woman, except he isn't allowed to look at her. Instead, she tells him the story of her life--which is fantastic, bordering on the cosmological, and seems to be creeping into the world around the painter in ominous ways. Along the way, just like in Ford's stories, there are moments of imagination (delivered in this impressionistic, almost liquid smooth prose) that impressed me more [...]

    12. Empecé a leerlo sin muchas expectativas. Lo anterior que leí de Ford fue La Fisiognomía, q es CF, y este parecía algo gótico. Sin embargo la lectura no es nada pesada y las cosas q van sucediendo hace q uno le vaya agarrando gusto a la historia. El final me resultó medio agridulce, pero no decepcionante, de hecho no lo vi venir si no hasta poco antes de leerlo. En cuanto al estilo narrativo diría que ha evolucionado de un estilo dark a uno más "normal", lo q no quiere decir q el libro se [...]

    13. A haunting story and psychological thriller. A portrait artist in early 20th century New York gets the offer for a commission of a lifetime: paint a woman's portrait without being able to see her and receive enough payment to be able to stop painting portraits and focus on work he is passionate about. He can only ask her questions about her life. The artist is quickly pulled into this warped tale of Mrs. Charbuque's life - never knowing what is real and what is pure childhood fantasy. There is a [...]

    14. the publisher hints "a bit of Henry James and Raymond Chandler maybe a bit of a noir-ghost-detective-mystery vibe the writing is pure Jeffrey Ford though, even as he moves dibs and dabs at various styles of narration the story is a beauty though, laden with unknowns and casually strewn facts and anecdotes about 'the woman he cannot see' and who is killing all these people and does it have anything to do with the painting? Ford seeds the tale with eerie and ethereal enigmas and allows the reader [...]

    15. Delicious, atmospheric little mystery. Surprisingly engaging for the supposedly tiny mystery within, and I actually found the additional plot-line and subsequent reveal a bit garish and tacked-on. Great little historical with the feel of an old Sherlock Holmes story that doesn't need the extra drama apparently added for spice. A ghost story without a ghost.

    16. Jeffrey Ford is to be congratulated for his own masterful portrait of Victorian era New York. If I had to be hypercritical, I'd say the ending didn't quite do justice to the incredible journey beforehand, but I have high expectations whenever I read Ford - and he always surpasses them. A truly wonderful writer.

    17. I enjoyed this a great deal. It's full of plot twists, right till the very end. I always like a good novel about a painter and this one didn't disappoint with it's slightly supernatural mysteries.A painter is asked to pain a portrait of a woman he has never seen while a horrifying mystery illness ravages the local women who end up dying bleeding tears of blood.

    18. A little bit heavy on the allegories, but overall a really fun and unique read. Loved reading about late 1800's New York City, and it was a great page turner by the end. The art references were really fun as well - loved having a painter as a protagonist.

    19. Fantastic book. Kept us both reading well into the night. Great premise, historic facts and suspense. I am not sure how I had never heard of this author but I am reading more of his period pieces and they are fun to read.

    20. The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque was a very engaging read for me. I found Mrs. Charbuque to be quite an intriguing figure, and I enjoyed reading about Piambo's unusual commission. This deftly-written novel by Jeffrey Ford left me wanting to read more from the author.

    21. When describing the good points of The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford, the list is long and begins with the attention-getting cover. In the edition I read downloaded from Instafreebie, an attractive woman dressed formally in what might be thought of as Victorian-era clothing leads me to believe this is a historical novel. The subtitle, “The Soul is a Dark Canvas,” makes me think there is a psychological element. A blurb from the Baltimore Sun says there is Art History, cool. It i [...]

    22. Reread October 2011. Gripping and strange. Precisely detailed and incredibly well written. A little-known artistic masterpiece.

    23. Nobody writes like Ford. My only quibble was the ending, which seemed a little rushed, but the level of imagination and Ford's unique perspective makes this one a must.

    24. Hooked on until the endThe book is not only beautifully written, it also boasts of a unique mystery that keeps you hooked on until the end.

    25. Jeffrey Ford to kolejny po Paolo Bacigalupim, Ianie R. MacLeodzie i Ianie McDonaldzie pisarz, który doczekał się omnibusu w Uczcie Wyobraźni, łączącego w jednym woluminie zbiór opowiadań oraz powieść. Takie wydanie to zawsze idealna okazja, by zapoznać się z pełnym spektrum literackich możliwości autora i stwierdzić, w jakiej formie poradził sobie lepiej — długiej czy krótkiej. W przypadku Forda trudno wydać jednoznaczny werdykt, ponieważ amerykańskiemu pisarzowi równie [...]

    26. In New York 1893, an accomplished painter, Piambo, is offered a strange commission to paint the portrait of a woman solely based on the stories she tells hidden from view behind a screen. There’s quite a lot of money at stake and from the offset it feels like an extrapolation of the tug of war between the commercial and creative needs of a professional artist. Each tale she tells of her childhood and later history is more fantastical than the next and draws strange parallels with Piambo’s ex [...]

    27. Нью-Йорк конца XIX века. Преуспевающий салонный портретист Пьеро Пьямбо уже несколько лет страдает от творческой неудоволетворенности. Ему упорно кажется, что, рисуя за хорошие деньги портреты богатых горожан, он с каждым днем только растрачивает последние крупинки собств [...]

    28. or rather a three and a half stars - this book has a great premise but somewhat poor execution.When I bought this book, and what actually drove me to read it, was this somewhat similar premise to the statue building from the beginning of Perdido Street Station, where an artist is trying to make a statue of a mysterious character. Well, Mrs. Charbuque's story is not like that and, to a slight incomfort to my narrow-minded literature taste, is not really a fantasy book. On the other hand, it's one [...]

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