FICTION

Nightshade

Knopf. Aug. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780525658290. $26.95. F
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As depicted by McAfee (Hame), mean-spirited rivalry is the chief motivator in the contemporary art world, and Eve Laing, a noted artist of botanical works, has had to struggle for her success and acceptance. She is married to internationally famous architect Kristof Axness who has many extramarital affairs and totally ignores her artwork. Now at 60, Eve takes much younger assistant Luka as a lover, and her creative powers are rejuvenated as she works on paintings of poisonous plants, the culmination of her artistic passion. The relationship is a life-changer, and she decides to discard Kristof. Unfortunately, Wanda Wilson, a performance artist of questionable talent but enormous ambition, is discovered to be behind Luka’s presence at Eve’s studio, and her schemes attack Eve on every level as deadly nightshade plays a pivotal role in the suspenseful climax of this fantastic story.
VERDICT McAfee delivers a spellbinding tale exploring the price artists, and especially female artists, must pay to achieve their ambitions, with issues of sexual politics, marriage, and children folded into the mix. Highly recommended and an exceptional choice for discussion groups.

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