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The Sensualist: An Illustrated Novel

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  271 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Now in paperback, this potent mystery draws readers into a tangle of lost loves, vengeance, and murder. Set in the dark world of a European winter, and illuminated with Barbara Hodgson's haunting illustrations, The Sensualist is a visual and literary exploration of the limitations of looking and the boundless power of seeing.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Chronicle Books (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Magdelanye
Sep 04, 2011 Magdelanye rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists and adventurers
Never judge a book by its cover is a cliche that invites caution and warns about being duped by design. In the case of the Sensualist, because the book itself is so gorgeous, I was braced for disappointment in the writing.

In fact, I had to be wooed a bit, because the opening is grotesque and it took a while for me to warm up to Helen Martin, scholar of antique anatomical illustration, in which I have not the slightest interest. Yet in spite of Barbara Hodgsons lack of an attempt to present her
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Ian Wood
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here.

I rated this novel warty!

(spoilers)

This novel started out right up there with Frances Hardinge's efforts for being downright weird, so it drew me in right away, but in the end it became tedious, repetitive, dull, and boring. Barbara Hodgson is a
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Emily
This beautifully illustrated mystery follows Helen Martin on a very strange journey. An expert in antique anatomical illustrations she goes on a trip to track down her missing husband, all the while feeling not quite herself. She goes through several strange transformations a little like poor Gregor Samsa, she's never sure who she'll be when she wakes up. Mostly i just loved the strange images that are scattered throughout.
Kate Lansky
My biggest problem with this book, beyond the disconnect others have commented on, was that the main character just didn't seem to know her profession. By the end of the book, I felt like this could have happened to anyone, that what she did for a living meant nothing. It was deeply, deeply frustrating for me!
Ariane
In the top 3 list of my favorite books. Part mystery, part travel novel, part introspection. It had me hooked from the first page.
Diane
A strange and wonderful and unpredictable book - but you'd better have a taste for a certain level of scholarship & historical minutiae if you want to enjoy it. Not to mention a lack of tidy resolution of the main character's life dilemmas. Lots of fun, with intriguing artwork throughout. Fun fun. Glad I read it.
Madonna
This was an interesting read, even though I was never really drawn in to the story. I liked the history parts, and the information about printing was certainly new to me. I did like the main character and she had my sympathy over her husband's not contacting her and then having the balls to complain about her not being home in the one contact he made. I certainly didn't like him. The illustrations were great and I enjoyed looking at them.
I just didn't get the part about Rosa and the others who
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Jaymee
Anatomy, history, (dis)embodiment are some of the focus of this novel. Not quite sure whether it's interestingly nice or just strange: it's that kind of book. The visuals were beautiful; however, the text and story don't seem to deliver, despite its promising premise. Hodgson could have done so much with her researches on the history of anatomy, including the themes which she chose--disembodiment and disjointedness--but somehow they fail to capture one's emotions and attention. That said, the vi ...more
Dimitri Walker
I say to my kids when they ask me about a book one of three things. When ask about this book by my daughter I told her "Poppy had to drag himself through this one sweetie". The opening line is awesome but the book doesn't quite live up to it. The lead character doesn't seem to know her job and the book itself spends way too much time trying to teach the reader things the main character needs to know but that we might not in order to enjoy the story.
The Sensualist An Illustrated Novel by Barbara Hodgson
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Sarah Emily
I have an exceptional tolerance for stories that don't quite make sense, for plots with huge missing pieces that require one to trust that the author will eventually clear things up. The Sensualist truly tested my patience in regards to surrealist mysteries. however, it also kept me curious and connected. this is a book to take on if you have several hours to commit to getting involved, not one that can be picked up and put down again casually. but if you do have the time, it's a odd and intrigu ...more
Thebruce1314
Let me just sum it up in one word: weird. I don't even know why I kept reading...it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. Something about the writing kept me going, but the story was twisted, convoluted and downright strange! The best part of the book: the heavy paper it was printed on. Even the illustrations (which, I admit, were part of what drew me to this book, along with the 50 cent price tag) were somewhat disappointing. But it does contain a flip-out diagram of a head, if that is o ...more
Melissa
A cross between The Club Dumas & The World According to Garp. It starts off wonderfully, eccentric characters, strange circumstances, oddities galore. Unfortunately, much like The C.D., it bogs down in the middle with too much hoo-ha about what drawing came from what block carved by what guy and when? Barbara Hodgson fails to tie all the elements together; by the end, most all of the questions I had about the reality that this book presents were still unanswered.
Elana
Aug 07, 2011 Elana added it
The story of the Vesalius print becomes too complicated and the story of Martin becomes too simple. Otherwise brilliant use of illustrations of the contents of the box. The senses were played to much more towards the beginning of the book and were less enthralling later on. I think I would have to read this book again to be sure I picked up on everything.
Austin Peters
The only reason I gave this book a full star is because of the amazing pictures. I was only able to get about 2/3 of the way through this book before setting it down and not being able to bring myself to pick it up again. The writing is drab and the story uninteresting, not to mention confusing. Who knows, maybe the end was worth it; I'll never know.
Gemma
Love the art - antiqued layers of mystery. The characters and plots started off with the same, rich layered appeal. But somewhere about halfway it all fell away. I thought her book, "The Tattooed Map" was a better reflection of the writer and artist.
Jennifer
There was great potential here, but it was unrealized. The plot lines scattered in all directions. What resolution was offered was patchy and haphazard. Like the box of relics that turn to dust - so do the various elements in the story.
Apple Austria
i couldn't wait to finish it cause i knew that i would only understand what the whole race to vienna was all about once i'm done.. true enough.. i loved how the two timelines met.. i loved how it confused me.. =)
Celeste
Ignoring the fact that the plot of this book makes v. little sense (and that those sense-making parts are sometimes hilariously overwritten), it was an enjoyable, disturbing, and sometimes beautiful read.
Cindi
Hmmmm. Where to start? Strange, weird... just plain bizzare? Had to finish to see if it resolved. Nope. Too many loose ends. Too many questions unanswered. Clever idea, poor execution.
Susan O'Bryant
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless I knew they were interested in anatomy and/or Vienna or Munich. I thought it was incredibly strange, but not delightfully so.
Kathryn
I like Ms. Hodgson's writing but I LOVE the art! It's what makes all her books for me. The story line of this one was a bit obtuse at times but, after all, it is a mystery.
lynna
i like this book... it's mystery is interesting... it's exploration of the senses is subtle and weird at times... the ending was a little weak.
Cynthia
A very exotic book that truly appealed to me. Hodgson's approach to each sense was thought provoking with a plotline that kept me reading.
Caleigh
So very mystical and captivating, although it seems impossible to give such otherworldly tales a satisfactory ending.
Kathy
I just didn't get this book at all. Kept waiting for it to make sense. Never did. A waste of time
DoctorM
A mystery about anatomical illustrations, and about Vienna. Beautiful to look at, eerie to read.
Belinda
Very strange
Kim
Enjoyable read
Eleah
Eleah marked it as to-read
May 20, 2015
Gretchen
Gretchen is currently reading it
May 18, 2015
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Barbara Hodgson is a book designer with a degree in archeology and a diploma in graphic design. She began her career in book design by working for Douglas & McIntyre, moving from freelance designer to art director prior to taking on freelance work for other publishers and ultimately forming the book-packaging company Byzantium Books with Nick Bantock in 1993.

Designing books led to writing book
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More about Barbara Hodgson...
The Tattooed Map Hippolyte's Island: An Illustrated Novel The Lives of Shadows: An Illustrated Novel Italy Out of Hand: A Capricious Tour No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers

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