Good morning!  Welcome to another Friday Potpourri in which we showcase Book Beginnings, hosted by A Few More Pages, and The Friday 56, led by Freda’s Voice.

To join in, share your current or upcoming reads and spotlight the opening lines and your reactions; then turn to p. 56 and excerpt anything on that page.

Then link up at the hosts’ sites!

Today I’ve chosen a review book I’ll be reading next week.  The Very Picture of You, by Isabel Wolff, is all about the relationships that shape who we are.

From Isabel Wolff, the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair, comes a beguiling novel about artistic inspirations, family secrets, and the courage to turn one’s life into a masterpiece.

At thirty-five, Gabriella Graham—“Ella” to her family and friends—has already made a name for herself as a successful portrait artist in London. She can capture the essential truth in each of her subjects’ faces—a tilt of the chin, a glint in the eye—and immortalize it on canvas. This gift has earned Ella commissions from royals and regular folks alike.

But closer to home, Ella finds the truth more elusive. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and her mother has remained silent on the subject ever since. Ella’s sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American working in London, but Ella suspects that he may not be so committed. Then, at Chloe’s behest, Ella agrees to paint Nate’s portrait.

From session to session, Ella begins to see Nate in a different light, which gives rise to conflicted feelings. In fact, through the various people she paints—an elderly client reflecting on her life, another woman dreading the prospect of turning forty, a young cyclist (from a photograph) who met a tragic end—Ella realizes that there is so much more to a person’s life than what is seen on the surface, a notion made even clearer when an unexpected email arrives from the other side of the world. And as her portraits of Nate and the others progress, they begin to reveal less about their subjects than the artist herself.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Isabel Wolff’s vibrant and textured story, these words are brilliantly crafted to convey the humor, mystery, and beauty that exists within each of us.


In the Beginning:

Prologue:  “Ella….? El-la?”  My mother’s voice floats up the stairs as I sit hunched over my sketch pad, my hand moving rapidly across the cartridge paper.  “Where are you?”  Gripping the pencil, I make the nose a little more defined, then shade in the eyebrows.

From this opener, it is obvious that the artist is totally immersed in her work, to the exclusion of those around her.  I’m eager to learn more.


P. 56:  Mike usually chatted away, but today he was virtually silent.  He directed his gaze towards me but avoided eye contact.  His mouth and jaw were tight.


So now I’m eager to find out what the rest of you chose today.  Come on by and share....


    1. Hi Tea and Laurel Rain,

      I find it very difficult to have a conversation with someone who refuses to make eye contct with me, I am always wary of their motives and find myself not trusting anything they subsequently say.


  1. Hi Laurel-Rain,

    It sounds as though we are both reading pretty much the same format of storyline.

    Family secrets kept hidden and never discussed, family relationships which have broken down, with seemingly irreconcilable differences and friendships floundering on the rocks, whch will take careful and slow re-building.

    I love it that your character is an artist though, as there is so much you can say in one picture on canvas, that you could never put into words.


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