It is winter in London in 1947. When Arthur Bailey, an elderly painter who lives alone, catches sight of a young woman, Felicity, about to move into the neighbouring bed-sit, he is stirred to recall in haunting detail a long-suppressed narrative.
The Landscape Painter is a double tale of obsession, betrayed trust and irrepressible hope, which emerges as Arthur’s story unfolds. As a young, brilliant landscape painter he travelled to South Africa in 1898 in pursuit of his best friend’s sister, the beautiful and mysterious Carwyn Hamilton. Carwyn’s subsequent shocking betrayal led Arthur down a dark path of humiliation and haunted him for the next fifty years.
As Arthur delves ever deeper into his most intimate thoughts and desires, the past and present come together in a series of surprising turns and parallels and we meet a range of memorable characters – from the malevolent German governess, Miss Klimt, to Carwyn’s flirtatious and increasingly senile grandmother, Mutti. Finally, Arthur is forced to confront Felicity with the irreducible damage done to him.
From the gold-crazed streets of early Johannesburg to the epic battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War, and the austerity of post-Second World War Britain, The Landscape Painter is a spectacular historical novel packed with wit and insight and crafted in Higginson’s lyrical and sinuous but surgical prose.