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The Suicide of Claire Bishop

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Greenwich Village, 1959. Claire Bishop sits for a portrait—a gift from her husband—only to discover that what the artist has actually depicted is Claire’s suicide. Haunted by the painting, Claire is forced to redefine herself within a failing marriage and a family history of madness. Shifting ahead to 2004, we meet West, a young man with schizophrenia obsessed with a ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Dzanc Books (first published August 24th 2015)
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Average rating 3.24  · 
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 ·  313 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Memory, mental illness, and modern art are central themes in this clever literary puzzle. Magic realism is an intriguing undercurrent here, but it never overwhelms the plot. Drawing strong generational parallels, Banasky asks readers what endures time’s losses and if it is ever possible to escape one’s fate. Fans of Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World and Judith Claire Mitchell’s A Reunion of Ghosts have a treat in store.

(See my full review at Foreword.)
Christoper Robinson
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of literary fiction, those interested in madness and art.
The Suicide of Claire Bishop is not only daring and ambitious, it actually fulfills its ambition! This is a book about womens' liberation in the 50's and 60s, about schizophrenia, about Alzheimer's, about disappearing bees. What's amazing is that Banasky is able to link all these threads together through the central story of a painting, a painting that should have been a portrait but instead became an image of Claire Bishop's suicide, a painting that haunts her, that gets stolen, changes hands ...more
Carmiel Banasky's debut novel dwells on two long term taboo subjects concerning human life: suicide and mental illness. It also floats along between two time periods and societal issues: war protests in the 1960s and art theft at the turn of the 20th century. If that were not enough the story includes an Hasidic Jewish convert, a mysterious painter, and a wealthy unfaithful husband.

It is a challenging read. I do not recommend it to any but the most intrepid readers. Readers who like to go
Steph Post
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, gorgeous and intriguing. A must read for fans of accessible literary fiction with fast pacing and complex themes.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review and more can be found on http://reading-is-dreaming-with-open-...

Confusing. Sadly, that's the only word that comes to my head when I think of this book. Don't get me wrong, I was plenty excited when I first came across it. The premise promised mental illness, time travel, art theft and lots more, so naturally, I expected something very engaging, but what I got instead was a spider's web of confusing anecdotes.

The plot was very imaginative, told through the perspectives of Claire
Alexander Rigby
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this and I am so glad that I did. As soon as I picked it up I had a feeling I would love it. This isn't the first time I've had this feeling, and I'm glad to know that my gut usually can tell when a book is going to be fantastic. I'm a sucker for any kind of plot that deals with art or an artist, and while a lot of this book centers on a painting, and how this very painting brings the two main characters together, it is so much more than that. Carmiel Banasky ...more
Emily M
Sep 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
It took me weeks to get through this book. I almost quit several times, including in the final fifty pages, but I was urged not to, so I kept going.

The premise of this novel is promising, and the first chapter is so compelling, but the rest of the book fell very flat for me. The significant lack of a chronology was really jarring to me, here. I understand that time is really important for this novel, but as a reader, trying to situate yourself in a thousand different places and times and in a
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, novel
I LOVED this the beginning. The interplay of the past and present, the variation in voice between Claire and schizophrenic West--it made my heart do things, and I was near tears when I wrote out the anagram of West's forbidden words, "sorry" and "crazy." As someone whose mental health has been on the skids and whose brain often feels like a saboteur, I thought the treatment of West was brilliant. But as the book went on, the plot felt too tidy and sewn up, and I felt neither Claire nor ...more
Nathan Bransford
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic debut. Haunting, beautiful and memorable.
Tony Guerra
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Audiobook Review:
I would recommend this book because I love non-fiction for its anchored logic and reason and from time to time I'll jump onto a book that I find that will challenge me. It's like a college class that you loved because you felt something, but when trying to articulate what you liked, all you can say is, "You just have to take it to understand." Then someone does and you have this understanding between you, but still can't put it into words.

If this was a film, I would definitely
Wafa Orman
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, complex, beautifully written book. The alternating POVs are skilfully handled, especially considering one of them has schizophrenia & is an unreliable narrator, to say the least. It's not an easy read, & it took some ruminating about it after I was done to tie things together, but it is a deep exploration of prophecy & self-fulfilling prophecy, & the Schrodinger's cat-like nature of prophecy, where observation & awareness themselves change the outcome.

Robert Vaughan
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a member of the Nervous Breakdown Book Club, I received this novel for their September pick. At first, I didn't think it would be the sort of book I'd read. But Banasky has a great grasp on pace and narrative, and her choices to explore as theme are complex and inviting. I loved her use of plot twists, and the lack of linearity in the novel drew me in. This is an ambitious novel for a writer's first, and I applaud her efforts.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Wow. I thought this book was going to be great but I ended up really disliking it.

The writing is beautiful but I didn’t really feel a connection to the characters, other than Claire. I don’t normally mind books that jump around in time, but this was so confusing and the end was a big disappointment.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
bored... Bored BORED, to tears. There is NO story. The author and her clunky never-ending pointless blathering should get a room. Leave me out of your love affair with your own voice. Surrealism is a painting style for a reason.

read the 5 star reviews- e.g. "ruminating characters... wrapped in dense writing," " you might pass by a gallery— or hear a song, echoing through a club, whatever, it’s not really the point— maybe you witness a piece of art that is full. And because you can feel the
Amy Maddess
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leah Bayer
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird-quirky
4.5 stars

I loved this book. Just adored almost every aspect of it. I think it has a lot of mixed reviews because the summary is very vague and kind of misleading. This is two stories woven together: the first is Claire, a woman in the 1950's/60's who has a portrait of her painted that changes her life. The second is a modern storyline (2004) about a schizophrenic man named West and his obsession with an artist who may or may not have painted Claire's portrait decades ago.

Most importantly, this
Anna K. Amendolare
Jan 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: out-in-2015, fiction
i'm still trying to wrap my head around this book. the premise was great: suicide, art, nyc in the 50's, schizophrenia. i expected this great, mind blowing novel. the beginning was a little slow for me, however, i loved Claire's story. West's story was eh. the middle of the book picked up and it felt like, finally, we're getting to the good stuff! the pace picked up only to be a huge let down in the end. nothing was solved. i was more confused with the ending than i was when i started reading! ...more
Chris Roberts
Sep 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
The long fields were stripped back to reveal a brilliant conflagration

of exotic flowers, all of differing heights and colors assorted

and resorted, painting a picture absent paint and brush,

the tall grass was ripped up at the roots by travelers

to use the thick stalks to wrap around their necks and self-choke out

Beautifully choreographed and last whispering, "Suicide is the new dead."

Chris Roberts, God of Terrible Beauty
Erin Tuzuner
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, fiction, 2015, the-city, death, xx
The navigation of person, place, time; only to be hurtled like a rogue snow globe down a skyscraper. What a beautiful mess, injury included. The tenuous connections of "mad" minds, choosing our end destination and all the roadblocks in between. Holy shit, what a novel.
Sep 15, 2015 marked it as to-read
You had me at the comparison to The Hours.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A mesmerizing story of those who need to hold on to a memory or image to sustain them. The two main characters live ethereal existences cloistered, in their unique ways from everyday existence. Banasky offers the reader torrents of sounds and images magnified by fear of dis-ease and schizophrenia. Fascinating story that leaves me thinking of the many who wander amongst us living in their own mysteries.
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn't quite know what to make of this book. It did provide a glimpse into what it might be like to have pschizophrenia. Excellent narration by Carol Monda and Will Damron.
Mar 14, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2017-new
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I'm not really sure what I actually read, what was it about? Very confused
Clay Brown
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
This novel about a work of art, a painting that depicts a woman's suicide didn't particularly work for me, there are two characters in the book to focus upon. The actual woman who is depicted in the painting, Claire, and a somewhat troubled young man in the future who finds the painting. I felt that the book was far more interesting when focusing upon Claire in the picture, her story was far more inviting than his... a young man named West who is far in the future. The book goes back and forth ...more
Larry Davidson
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very imaginative story told through two individuals: Claire Bishop (who we meet in 1959) when she is sitting for a portrait of her) and West (who we meet around 2004). The portrait of Claire is painted by Nicolette who is a 26 year old young woman. Rather than producing a portrait of Claire, Nicolette paints a series of incidents that are projected to occur over her life, including her suicide. Claire reacts angrily, as does her husband, and chases Nicolette out. Soon after this ...more
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
I thought this book had some potential and I enjoyed some aspects of it but on the whole it didn't really work for me. This book doesn't have much of a plot so it really has to succeed as a character study but I never felt like I got Claire. After a strong introduction I didn't find her interesting or complex or anything and I didn't feel like I really got into her head. Ultimately she was a drab character and I didn't find the trip through her life very entertaining or thought provoking.

West I
Karin Mika
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Beautiful written book that is tough to put down even though focusing on what is going often requires intense concentration. The plot interweaves the lives of various strangers brought together by the existence of one painting that has deep and different meanings for all. At some points, you find yourself waiting for resolution of a storyline, but that doesn't really happen at all, and in the end, you never really know whether the delusions of one of the main characters (who happens to be ...more
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Carmiel Banasky is a writer, editor, and teacher from Portland, OR. Her first novel, The Suicide of Claire Bishop, is published by Dzanc Books (September 2015). Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, PEN America, American Short Fiction, Slice, Guernica, The Rumpus, and on NPR, among other places. She earned her BA from the University of Arizona and her MFA from Hunter College, where she taught ...more