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Painter of Silence

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,467 ratings  ·  231 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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Average rating 3.49  · 
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Jul 27, 2018 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Speed dating with books 4/6
Since I am moving my books from one room to another and building a new bookcase I realized (again) that I have way too many unread books. I decided to choose 6 (for the beginning) of the ones waiting on my shelves for a long time or that I do not know if I would like, read 50 pages and decide if I want to continue with them or send them away. This week and the next I will share with you the results.

The 4th attempt did not go very well either. I received this novel as a
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arts, romania, audible, medical, hf
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
In these fragmented lines of lyricism, I sense silent strength. Prosaic and poetic strength. This playful, yet deeply meaningful narrative traverses the mind of a deaf man, and a woman who nearly escapes war by abandoning her family; I'm reminded of the many things that we keep hidden. He's a deaf mute, so there isn't much anyone expects him to reveal; she's a nurse who has seen (and possibly endured) much, but she chooses to keep quiet about it, to live a life disentangled from those times:

Roman Clodia
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Romania in the aftermath of the Second World War and with the country under communist rule, this is a book which tells a harsh and sometimes bleak story in lyrical, quiet prose.

Safta and Augustin, the deaf-mute painter of the title, are brought up together as children, she the daughter of the house, he the cook's son. The book follows a dual narrative of the past in the run-up to, and course of, the war; and the present set in the 1950s when Safta and Augustin re-meet.

This isn't a busy, p
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Violet wells
I began to enjoy this book more once I started to read it as a fable. Only then did I cease to be irritated by its relentless whispered pretensions of oracular wisdom. It begins brilliantly. The first chapter is fabulously crafted, inspired writing and had me eagerly looking forward to reading all Georgina Hardy’s novels. Almost as if I had discovered a new Michael Ondaatje. Not sure what happened then. The tension of the first chapter punctured, almost as if an apprentice took over, and the wri ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, nook
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
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-borrowed
The synopsis of the book is fairly well done and I won't rehash it here. I will suggest that a reader will certainly increase their level of enjoyment/ understanding if they are well taught in Soviet Union events and pre and post war Romania.All I had to go on was a few battles and the gulags.

The atmosphere of the story was haunting and darker than I would have anticipated,but it kept me turning the pages. Much of this darkness seems to seep from and surround Augustin. Many characters, time and
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
Oct 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: women-s-prize
This is a novel set in Romania around the early half of the 20th century. We follow a young boy who is severely deaf and therefore mute. The story flashes from the 'present' (in the novel which is just after the war) to the childhood of Tino the young boy and his life as he grows up.

There are lots of shifts of narrative, points of view and timelines which would sometimes throw me. The writing is brilliant and poetic, this woman can set a scene and draw you in.

so why 3 stars? Well, I am quite a s
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Chrissie
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Ashley Rangel
Aug 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on

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
This book centres around a young deaf boy, who is also unable to speak, the illegitimate son of a woman who works as a servant in a large country house in Rumania, and the young Daughter of the house who befriends him.
The story starts just before WW2, and continues into the post war communist regime.
I enjoyed was unusual, atmospheric, has some memorable characters, and taught me a lot about what happened in Rumania during and after the war,
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-in-fiction
I picked this book up because the title intrigued me. The painter of the title is Augustin, who is deaf and mute. We first meet him when he arrives in the Romanian city of Iași, in the early 50s, a time of Stalinist oppression. Augustin (Tinu) makes his way to a hospital, where his childhood companion Safta is working.

The writing is quite beautiful and verging on the poetic.

How complete the blackness must be when a deaf man closes his eyes.

Tinu is the fatherless son of the cook on a rich estat
May 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a hauntingly beautiful novel, set in pre and post war Romania. Augustin is a deaf mute boy, born to the cook at the ‘big house,’ and Safta is the first born child of the family who live there. The two are born six months apart and, despite their different status, have an immediate understanding and sympathy with each other. The book begins after the war, when Augustin arrives in the city to look for Safta and is found, emaciated and delirious, on the hospital steps. Safta is a nurse and ...more
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Stephanie Pieck
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Painter of Silence" was lovely. The precise descriptions of people, places, ways of life, and of course color sweep the reader along and shed light on a particular time (perhaps 1950) in Rumania, a corner of the world that doesn't get mention here in America except if it's to discuss the problems the country has had recently with AIDS orphans and trafficked young women.
Shifting between present and past, and cycling among the perspectives and remembrances of various characters, "The Painter of S
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a classic example of a beautifully written book that didn’t deliver on its promise. We have two primary characters in Romania after the Second World War who allude to how they suffered without actually telling of real suffering; that is to say, they witnessed a lot but comparatively little happened to them. It’s the same with the other characters after the war, suffering under the new Communist regime. As for before the war, not much out of the ordinary here either with its characters a ...more
I'm going to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed by this book. When I read the description of it I thought that it was going to be really interesting and a gripping read. Following the story of Safta and Augustin, this story travels through the memories through the use of drawings done by Augustin. What I found disappointing was that much of the story felt a bit like back story to the events that were going to roll out. Once I got to about 80% completed I started to get gripped by the sto ...more
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.

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