In the Full Light of the Sun


Title: In the Full Light of the Sun

Writer: Clare Clark

Publishing House: Virago

Date of Publication: February 28th 2019

Rating: 1 star

‘’You think knowing you can never change that the rottenness is too deep – rooted in you, that it’s part of who you are, you think that makes anything better, that it stops the guilt, the shame?’’

Beautiful quote, isn’t it? Three troubled lovers of Art. A confused middle-aged art expert tries to confront his marital issues and his lust for beautiful creations. An art dealer with dangerous secrets, a young woman who tries to follow her dreams. Winter in Berlin during the 1930s. Van Gogh and the wealth of German philosophers in a glamorous and gloomy background. It is a true wonder how short this book fell when the ingredients could not have been better…

What I am about to write is strictly my personal opinion. Chances are that many will read the book and enjoy it. I couldn’t. The setting was ideal, the scenery was beautiful. However, I found the prose to be average and the dialogue inadequate, almost amateurish. The swearing was horrible, exaggerated and utterly inappropriate for the era and the plot. In addition, the complications of the sexual preferences of the characters were irrelevant to the main story and, in my opinion, boring and tasteless. I am not reading a novel to find out who slept with whom. I am not the least bit interested in such themes. I wanted to read this book to absorb the atmosphere of the era, of Berlin and to experience a supposedly good story. Leave all the rest for a mass-marketed, trashy romance…

The endless, unnecessary dialogue that leads nowhere and bears no resemblance to the way Germans speak does not compliment this book. The interactions felt heavily modern, clumsy, soulless. The characters were nothing groundbreaking, in my opinion. I found them boring and one-dimensional and I couldn’t bring myself to care for their fate. Emmeline had some potential but the execution was extremely problematic.

It’s a pity, really. You have the beautiful Berlin setting, a turbulent era full of social and political upheaval, the fascinating world of Art and the mysteries that surround the genius that answered to the name Van Gogh and you manage to produce a snooze-fest – by my standards, at least- full of naive dialogue, boring characters, and implausible plot lines. Historical Fiction is a tricky genre, it will expose every weakness of a writer. When you have read Erpenbeck’s Visitation, a masterful elegy to Berlin and its turbulent history, you can only be disappointed (and in certain parts, disgusted…) with this novel.  Naturally, to compare Erpenbeck and this writer is like comparing Shakespeare to a romance scribbler…In my opinion, this is one of the worst books of the year.

*It’s about time to quit using the old ”based on a true story” line. It doesn’t really work anymore… *

Many thanks to Virago and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.