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Palladio: A Novel
by Jonathan Dee
ISBN 038550179X / 9780385501798 / 0-385-50179-X
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An unforgettable portrait of a man haunted by memories of the woman who got away_blended skillfully with a searing look at the role of art and memory in our times.
In a small, foundering town in central New York, Molly Howe grows up to be a seemingly ordinary but deeply charismatic young woman. As a teenager, she has an affair with a much older man--a relationship that thrills her at first, until the two of them are discovered, and she learns how difficult it can be to get away with such a transgression in a small town. Cast out by her parents, she moves in with her emotionally enigmatic brother, Richard, in Berkeley, California. At her lowest moment, she falls in with a young art student named John Wheelwright. Each of them believes--though for very different reasons--that this is the love that can save them. Then Molly, after being called home for a family emergency, disappears.
A decade later, John has gone on to a promising career at a "cutting edge" advertising agency in New York. He seems on a familiar road to success--until he wanders into the path of Malcolm Osbourne, an eccentric advertising visionary who decries modern advertising's reliance on smirking irony and calls for a popular art of true belief and sincerity. Toward this end, Mal founds--and invites John to join--a unique artists' colony-cum-ad agency called Palladio, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The risky, much-ridiculed venture brings them undreamt-of fame and influence. It also brings, literally to their door, Molly Howe.
In a triumph of literary ingenuity, Jonathan Dee weaves together the stories of this unforgettable pair, raising haunting questions about the sources of art, the pain of lost love, and whether it pays to have a conscience in our cynical age. [via]