Painter of Silence
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Painter of Silence

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  770 ratings  ·  148 reviews
An intimate and devastating portrait of Romania during and after the Second World War, through the prism of a moving and utterly original friendship.Shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize.
Hardcover, 314 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Bloomsbury (first published 2012)
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I am not quite sure why I so very much enjoyed this book, but I know I did. It is a quiet book, with beautiful language that keeps you thinking. No splashy action filled drama. There are two main characters, one, a deaf mute, and the other his friend, a girl. They are born six months apart. They are born in the same house. Thus they have grown up together, but one was born to the cook and the other to the family of the manor. It is about their relationship. This is not a love story between these...more
I can only imagine that the editor who described this book as being 'as intense and submerging as rain' was being a bit too clever for their own good, because it really is about as immersive as a light shower. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't enjoy it much either. The writing is fine, but there were no parts I felt like marking out as especially significant or beautiful. And that's the problem; the whole book is dominated by this odd sense of flatness that make it quite dull to read.

The novel...more
There is a sense that Georgina Harding’s novel Painter of Silence is whispering some essential pieces of wisdom that require all of our attention to absorb. Maybe it is just because Harding’s character Augustin is deaf and mute, interacts with the world in every way but sound. Even without voice, though, Augustin has a story to tell and, while terrified, he is also determined to tell it, particularly to the one person he thinks might ‘hear’ it. She is Safta, the little girl of his childhood who,...more
I read this book because I am interested in deaf protagonists, but I consider The Painter of Silence a failure in portraying a deaf character. I don't think the author thought through how Augustin communicates. Images can be subjective, and weren't always a reliable means of communication for him. So it's not sufficient to say that he communicates through drawings and paintings. Safta is supposed to be able to communicate with him by other means, and it's never really specified how she does it....more
Post World War II Romania is under the brutal Stalinist regime; an unnamed man wakes up in hospital deaf, mute and unable to communicate. A young nurse, Safta, recognises him and brings him a pencil and paper so he can draw. Slowly and painstakingly, memories appear on the page, not just his memories but Safta’s too as they grew up together. But his world has remained the same size and Safta’s has expanded to embrace languages and society.

Communist Romania wouldn’t be the easiest place to live a...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Most of the first two-thirds of Georgina Harding’s third novel Painter of Silence seem to be a test with regards to just how much boredom a reader will endure before giving up and moving on to the next book. Only three major characters are fleshed out, nothing of note really happens to them, and the story that ties everything together hinges primarily on a protagonist named Augustin who can’t speak or hear, but can express himself solely by way of his supposedly evocative drawings. The problem i...more
May 04, 2012 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by: Kimbofo
Set postwar in Iași, a city in Romania, Painter of Silence traces the story of Augustin, a deaf-mute, who has found his way across a war-ravaged landscape to give a message to Safta, his childhood friend since their days on the Valeanu family estate at Poiana. This period of Romania’s history included the collectivization of agriculture, forced nationalisations of private property and a reign of terror to eliminate all forms of opposition, real or imagined. There can be few books which so vividl...more
A small fable of life just before, then a good bit after, the war, in Romania. Some lovely (if not exceptional) writing and a good sense of place on an estate - and a bit less so in Iasi afterwards. There is a nice range of village characters but all are rather thin, including the two principles (the boy is treated like an idiot savant) and the story, despite the inevitable richness (and horror) of wartime, is also a bit sparse. It wraps up exceedingly tidily and the interesting angle on the loo...more
3.5 stars. The book is written beautifully, and there are many lines that make you think and ponder about life and your place in it. However, for me, it had an underlying tone of bleakness and desolation. I wanted to know what happened, but for whole sections of the book, I felt like I was driving through a war zone, looking at ruins. Meanwhile, there was a light at the end of the tunnel but I just wanted to put my foot on the gas so I could get there. I am still pondering the last page and what...more
Painter of Silence is the story of Augustin, a deaf and mute man who is found on the hospital steps of Iasi, Romania. Through a connection with one of the nurses, Safta, the story of their shared childhood and war experiences slowly unfold, all told through art and silence. The idyllic world of their childhood has been forever changed by war and a brutal new Communist regime.

Painter of Silence is the first shortlisted book to disappoint me. I went into it expecting a treat as generally I enjoy t...more
Painter of Silence is set in Romania before, during and after the second world war. The book's present follows Augustin, a deaf mute who is found, undernourished and seriously ill, on the steps of Bucharest's hospital. He is nursed back to health by Safta, a nurse who knew him when they were children growing up in a small rural village. She cares for Augustin, and arranges a place for him to go to when he is eventually released from hospital.

We also learn of Safta and Augustin's childhood. Safta...more
Beautifully written book, haunting in places, Augustin's isolation as a result of his inability to hear or speak. His knowledge of events which he wants to impart and can only do so by his drawings, and the sense of his frustration when others don't understand.
There's also the sense of the state of things in Romania at the end of the war, with neighbours informing on each other.
Travelled to Romania years ago when I was 12, and can still remember that we tipped the waitresses in coffee, also boug...more
Extremely moving - why do some books just reach out and get you? I had to stop reading this on the aeroplane on Thursday and then as I was finishing it yesterday, I was sobbing! The images that the book conjured stayed with me all day. What more can you ask of a book but to be completely transported to another time and place
Absolutely exquisite prose! I was quite moved by this novel. A bleak, claustrophic atmosphere hung over the story. This novel may not be for everyone, but if you're in the mood for a slow-paced, languid story, this may be just the ticket.

Set in 1930s to 1950s Stalinist Romania, this is the story of two people who had grown up together on the same country estate near the village of Poiana. Safta is the privileged daughter of the house; Tinu is the deaf and mute son of the cook. Then their life...more
Harding is a new writer to me and I am impressed with her evocation of that lost rural life encapsulated by that European summer of 1939, not in the England of Brideshead Revisited but on a rural estate in Romania. Here the master is an Anglophile who sends his sons to England for an education and his daughter Esta to Paris. The sons escape the war but Esta, after severe personal conflict refuses to accompany either her lover or the rest of the family when they leave, as she has broken with fami...more
Diane S.
I first became aware of this novel when it was long listed for the Orange prize and the title intrigued me. I first started reading it and wasn't sure whether I was going to like it or not. Yet the concept f a deaf mute communicating by drawing pictures interested me. So glad I kept reading because this turned out to be a very understated quiet gem of a book. It is a book set before and after the communist takeover of Romania and the deaf mute was the cook's son on an estate in the countryside....more
This was left for me by a good friend and I thank her for that as I would probably not have read it otherwise. I was stuck in the verbosity of Hugo's Les Misérables and decided to take something "simpler" on holiday with me. I read it straight through so it didn't have a chance to fill all my quiet holiday moments!

I did enjoy the book and especially Harding's use of simple but evocative language. Unlike others I didn't find it flat and grey, more a verbal reflection of Augustin's world which lac...more
This is one of a few books I bought this past summer while visiting Edinburgh. I had never read anything by Georgina Harding before. What a wonderful storyteller! I couldn't put this book away from me and read it every spare moment I had. On coffeebreaks, riding the bus and late into the night.

It brings to life the story of a deafmute and his experiences growing up. Then his survival during the war as the Russians invade his homeland. His captivity and after the war his search ffor the girl he k...more
I don't know am I just cranky and tired at the end of the year but I found this book quite boring! I appreciate that it is written very well but it just failed to have any real climax or development. The story is of a wealthy family in the 1930's who have a very beautiful and quite innocent younger daughter who's closest friend is the son of one of the servants. This boy is deaf/mute and almost illiterate and communicates slowly through drawing and the arts. As war hits they are separated and he...more
This book just misses the mark of being great. It was shortlisted for a prize for fiction last year and the writer is amazing, but the story is so dark and intense that it needs more light. I was frustrated by the deaf mute and at times wanted to scream at him, which means I was really drawn into the story, but it took almost 200 pages for me to feel he was real. He expressed himself through drawing, but even that didn't convince me that he was connected to any of the other characters. The story...more
Ashley Rangel

Ok maybe I haven't given it enough of a chance but I cant get myself to want to stick this out. The writing style, for the most part, is lacking something for me. Sometimes I like how she's writing and then other times it seems all over the place and a little redundant. But maybe I feel irritated because if I really listen to myself think often enough it's inevitable that my thoughts are all over the place and not really sure of themselves (and in those cases its about people and unless you rea...more
Tanya Lolonis
Evocative, gentle prose which drew me in. The story, set in Romania before and after the Second World War, is essentially about adjusting to lost worlds -- country aristocracy before the war and the Communist take-over destruction or appropriation of their physical world afterwards; lingering over the past and living in the moment; survival, and the friends and enemies that emerge, out of nowhere. It is about a deaf-mute young man who can only communicate -- and imperfectly -- with drawings, and...more
May 13, 2013 Quiltyknitwit rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patti
Shelves: 2013
This subtle novel isn't for everyone, but I loved it. One of the main characters is a deaf mute man (Augustin) who couldn't read lips or do sign language. Set in Romania, the novel switches back and forth in time, pre-WWII, and then to the 1950s under Communist rule. The characters experienced the cruelties and oppression of war and occupation, as well as great humanity and kindness. There are all kinds of missed opportunities and unsuccessful communications, which create tension, and also remin...more
Majella Whelan
Absolutely brilliant. Beautiful. Mesmerising. Bare, poetic prose which I savoured as slowly as possible because I just didn't want it to end. Finishing it felt like trying to wake up in the morning. This novel induces a state of trance. I was completely under it's spell for the last two days, could not bear to leave it down. I love this book so much! Sigh. 'Painter Of Silence' will definitely remain on my top 10 favourites list. Always.
Poppy Hall
I just couldn't find anything of interest about this novel. Like others have mentioned, an excellent premise for a potentially fantastic read, but I just found it dull and very disappointing. The pace was slow and uninviting. The characters were underdeveloped and unbelievable, creating a lack of foundation for empathy to be felt from the reader.
Essie Fox
Contains Spoilers.

Painter of Silence is a beautifully written book, the imagery like a painting, full of muted colour and light and an essence of ‘quiet stillness’ as the novel deals with fundamental themes of friendship and love, loss and tragedy.

The setting is Romania, spanning a period between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. The novel opens up following the end of the second-world war when both country and town have been ravaged; everything a bleak, grey and monotone, in the centre of which is a h...more
'Als jij eens woorden had voor alles wat je gezien had.' (p.244)

Zijn herinneringen nog herinneringen als je ze niet kan verwoorden? Kan je ze weer tot leven brengen zonder woorden te gebruiken? Heeft het wel zin om wat reeds lang voorbij is nieuw leven in te blazen?

Ook in 'Schilder van stilte' doet Georgina Harding waar ze zo goed in is. Met eenvoudige taal en met een minimum aan literaire truukjes en techniekjes schildert ze een mooi verhaal. Mooi en vooral rustig. Het ritme van het verhaal br...more
Bree T
In Romania after the Second World War, a man is found on the steps of a hospital, frail and very ill. He is taken in and treated as best the nurses can without having the funds to buy the expensive drugs he needs to get better. One nurse in particular takes a shining to him, talking to him softly as she looks after him. Because the man hasn’t spoken, they don’t know anything about him – his name, his age, where he comes from. This nurse, Adriana names him Ioan, after her son who hasn’t come back...more
May 14, 2012 Michelle rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my sister and anyone who likes intelligent romance novels
Recommended to Michelle by: Orange Prize 2012
Shelves: orange-2012
Painter of Silence is a very sweet and endearing book that focuses on the lives of Augustin and Safta during the years just before World War II and continuing until just a few years after the war. The two friends grow up together - Safta the daughter of a wealthy Romainian business man and Augustin the deaf and mute son of one of the servants to Safta's family. However as they mature and thier social "place" takes hold, they drift apart only to find each other again after the war has ended.

Nancy Oakes
Starswise, closer to 3.5 stars than 4. But it's still a good read.

While Painter of Silence may not be the best work of historical fiction I've ever read, it's certainly good and is told from a rather unique perspective. It was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize this year.

As Painter of Silence opens, a young man makes his way to a hospital in the city of Iasi, in Moldavia (Romania) where he collapses on the stairs outside of the building. He is found, brought in and brought back from the edge...more
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Georgina Harding is an English author of fiction. Published works include her novels Painter of Silence (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012), The Spy Game (shortlisted for The Encore Award 2011), and The Solitude of Thomas Cave.

She has also written two works of non-fiction: Tranquebar: A Season in South India and In Another Europe. She lives in London and the Stour Valley, Essex.
More about Georgina Harding...
The Solitude of Thomas Cave: A Novel The Spy Game: A Novel In Another Europe: A Journey To Romania Tranquebar: A Season in South India The Quiet Romanian

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“What does it matter who a person is or who they have been? Let them think what they like. We're all so many people, aren't we, nowadays? So confusing it is, I don't know how anyone keeps track. There are the people we are inside, then the people we used to be, then there are the people other people think we are.” 3 likes
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