It’s often said that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll be disappointed. Because when you do, you’ll find their guard is down and their stage persona offline and so you will undoubtedly discover they are just like you and me, spilling things down their front, slurping their tea, picking their nose or teeth in public, etc, etc. I’ve met a few famous people in my time, namely in my work as a film extra in the past. Its rare that I’ve had the opportunity to meet celeb’s in a personal capacity; but the above applies when I have (excluding the nose picking, but you get my point).
Another thing I have never done and is part of a large list, which I keep trying to shorten, especially having hit my half century this year, is visit Glasgow. If I had, I would have probably gone to its main art museum The Kelvingrove to see among other things its pride and joy, a Dali painting. I’ve seen the Caravaggio in Dublin, the Nightwatch in Amsterdam and David in Florence. While I used to have a poster of Dali’s, The Temptation of St Anthony on my bedroom wall when I was in my teens. Dali’s surrealism and the weird things he did with animals and clocks amused me. This month’s first book review, is centred around the great man’s painting, Christ Of St John Of The Cross. The book is The Diver and The Lover by Jeremy Vine and published by Coronet an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in September.
Its 1951, Ginny and Meredith, two sisters from Hull, travel to Spain to help Meredith recover from a terrible trauma. They run into the famous American stuntman, Russell Saunders in their hotel. He’s there to work with Local resident and surrealist painter Salvador Dali with his latest project. But, tensions have arisen between the two men and their PR representative, a fiery red headed Irish woman, called Siobhan Lynch is desperate to save this very lucrative arrangement for her bosses back in London and push on with her plan of taking control of the Dali account. With Saunders refusing to work with Dali and time running out, Ginny and Meredith witness what appears to be the suicide of a member of the hotel staff off nearby cliffs, only to discover he’s Adam, a keen diver. The sisters along with Siobhan, hatch a plan to save the deal, wherein Adam takes Saunders place as a body double for Dali’s masterpiece, with Saunders taking all the credit. Meanwhile, Ginny and Adam have fallen in love, but Siobhan also has feelings for the Canadian. Can the quartet work together, against Dali’s eccentricities and with the backdrop of the ever growing divisions between the locals and Franco and the rumblings of Civil War….
Like most books I accept for these blog tours, I rarely read the blurb on the back and literally like Adam, I dive right in and see where it takes me. I knew nothing of Dali’s Christ Of St. John Of The Cross and that it was hanging in Glasgow or the history behind it’s conception and what Saunders had to endure so Dali could get what he wanted. Along with the outcry which came with the Museums purchase.
What I got, was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. I had seen mixed reviews from other bloggers and my own wife had baulked at reading it when it arrived in the post. Now that I’ve finished, I feel enlightened and delighted to discover the back story of this amazing piece of work.
Vine has a lovely easy going style about his writing, which is similar to his style of radio presentation (something I experience regular listening to him from here in Dublin and on our regular trips to visit family in the UK) which allows him to tell a story with just enough drama, humour and suspense. Not forgetting, adding a healthy and rich mix of romance into the tale too. The four main characters are full bodied and well drawn, while there there is a Rainman-esque sort of relationship between Ginny and Meredith. As for the real characters, Dali and Saunders, there is a lot of research visible by Vine into the artist’s home and character. I had a feeling of Dali’s acting like Willie Wonka as he shows the quartet around his villa in Port Lligat and down to his subterranean studio. Vine has done a great job to bring out the artists eccentric qualities. While Saunders is a support cast member, he does provide some great heroic interludes, as well as being the inspiration for the story too.
This is English author, broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Vine’s (@thejeremyvine) first novel, he’s previously published two books of non-fiction ‘Its All News To Me’ (2013) and ‘What I Learnt: What My Listeners Say’ (2017). He currently presents The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC radio 2 and in 2018 took over presenting the UK’s Channel 5’s The Right Stuff, now called Jeremy Vine. He lives in Chiswick, with his wife and two daughters.
If there was a downside to the book, I thought it was a bit drawn out at the end, but apart from that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic read. With my choice for a book group read coming up in four weeks’ time, I think I may have found another contender. A difficult choice ahead, me thinks.
So if like me, you are fascinated by Dali’s work and the eccentric life of this great painter, but also want to discover more about the history of this little known work, Then you’ll enjoy this story. So download or purchase a hardcopy, throw yourself onto the couch, and with Covid restrictions still in place, visit Spain through Vine’s eyes. Then, like me, plan a trip to Glasgow for next year (fingers crossed).
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This review is part of a blog tour Organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what the other reviwers thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you think, we’d really appreciate the feedback.