Joan McGrath is a Toronto Board of Education library consultant.
A young woman, Sarah Kidd, enters the household of elderly Mattie, the
widow of a famous portraitist, who lives in odd seclusion on an island
off the Atlantic Coast. Mattie repulses all attempts by journalists to
record the story of her life with the colorful, enigmatic Sylvester.
Sarah soon learns that Mattie’s reluctance to speak is more than mere
reclusiveness, and she is determined to ferret out the secrets in
Like all Allen’s hectic novels, Painted Lives works up a fair head of
steam, both in recollecting erotic events of long ago and in describing
the events presently taking place upon the island. Another of her
predictably recurring themes is childhood abuse and its effect on the
victim’s adult life and self-esteem. She tells an absorbing and
fast-paced—if somewhat implausible—story that will certainly please
admirers of her brand of psychologically twisted romance.