What an exuberant, spattering style British novelist Sarah Winman employs! Every scene is seemingly narrated by a jaundiced yet sentimental rhapsodist. Dialogue sparkles, time passes in unequal chunks, and extravagant characters abrade. For me at least, that means her books both enthrall and distance. Scenes captivate or scenes flabbergast. So it is with her fourth novel, “Still Life,” a sprawling novel around war’s residues, a love of Florence, London’s East End, the influence of art, the construction of families, and the mysteries of love. A cast of characters (and I use that phrase advisedly, one can imagine a swirling roster of actors) spans WWII to the 1970s, including a stolid, loving solder; a lesbian art afficionado; an independent Englishwomen; an eccentric man; and a parrot(!).
Still Life has all of the above going for it and if you are a Sarah Winman fan, or can recognize this form of extravagant saga-making, it will surely delight. For me, as mentioned at the outset, the outsized prose and the risky plotline zig-zags left me attached to the central hero but none of the other characters. Nonetheless, a bounteous read.