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Paint It Black

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Brutally Real

With intense imagery and often painful scenes, Janet Fitch has painted a masterpiece. You may not like it's graphic nature and it's punk characters, but if you know the rock scene and have lived through hard times you will understand it. It is beautifully put together b...
With intense imagery and often painful scenes, Janet Fitch has painted a masterpiece. You may not like it's graphic nature and it's punk characters, but if you know the rock scene and have lived through hard times you will understand it. It is beautifully put together by some one who knows the true nature of words. For me, it has been the most interesting book I have read since her debut novel, White Oleander.

posted by Anonymous on July 19, 2007

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Interesting Conflicted Characters, but Oh Did This Story Drag!

From reading previous reader reviews, it seems people either loved the book or hated it. I fall somewhere in between. The main characters were interesting, conflicted, and--especially with regard to Josie and Meredith--presented at great contrast to one another. However...
From reading previous reader reviews, it seems people either loved the book or hated it. I fall somewhere in between. The main characters were interesting, conflicted, and--especially with regard to Josie and Meredith--presented at great contrast to one another. However, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were about 100 pages shorter. In real life when someone dies, those closest to the person suffer for a long time--months, often years--with little relief. I understand that. And since this novel took place over a period of only about two months from the time Josie first learns of her boyfriend Michael's suicide, it is only natural that both Josie and Michael's mother, Meredith, would be mourning throughout, but it is hard to make that work in a book and keep the reader interested.

That being said, there were some excellent scenes between Josie and Meredith which created great intensity and conflict in the story. Meredith constantly plays on Josie's sympathy only to use that sympathy as a ploy to get something she wants. Such as asking to see where Josie and her son lived, then using that knowledge to ransack Josie's home and take everthing that she and Michael once shared. For this reason, I kept waiting to find out some devious hidden reason for why Meredith befriends her again offering to take her to Europe with her, but that part of the story just dropped away. Getting back to the ransacked home, I also felt Josie's actions were implausible. Why didn't she call the police? Sure, it is explained away that she did not like the police, which is not so surprising with her heavy substance abuse problems--but, come on now! We're talking breaking and entering and robbery of all all the stuff that made up her life with the man she supposedly so desperately loved!

Like so many of us, when we are going through a difficult period, we often look for some kind of sign, and Josie, between drug and alcoholic hazes, keeps on doing that again and again. (What the recurring coyote image was supposed to mean is anyone's guess.) She believes she gets a sign out of something she finds at the end of the book, but it wasn't much--anything really--to go on. No matter. It helps her to get some closure, which after more than 400 long drawn-out pages made me just glad to see it come to an end. Just wrap a bunch of enigmatic thoughts and emotions in some deep French girl references, and let the reader make of it what she will. I was so hoping for Josie's character to grow some, but even as she attempts to rescue another forgotten girl at the end, I found it impossible to forget that she was still driving back to L.A. with drugs in her purse.

posted by JustMyTwoCents on January 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2007

    Brutally Real

    With intense imagery and often painful scenes, Janet Fitch has painted a masterpiece. You may not like it's graphic nature and it's punk characters, but if you know the rock scene and have lived through hard times you will understand it. It is beautifully put together by some one who knows the true nature of words. For me, it has been the most interesting book I have read since her debut novel, White Oleander.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    Interesting Conflicted Characters, but Oh Did This Story Drag!

    From reading previous reader reviews, it seems people either loved the book or hated it. I fall somewhere in between. The main characters were interesting, conflicted, and--especially with regard to Josie and Meredith--presented at great contrast to one another. However, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were about 100 pages shorter. In real life when someone dies, those closest to the person suffer for a long time--months, often years--with little relief. I understand that. And since this novel took place over a period of only about two months from the time Josie first learns of her boyfriend Michael's suicide, it is only natural that both Josie and Michael's mother, Meredith, would be mourning throughout, but it is hard to make that work in a book and keep the reader interested. <BR/><BR/>That being said, there were some excellent scenes between Josie and Meredith which created great intensity and conflict in the story. Meredith constantly plays on Josie's sympathy only to use that sympathy as a ploy to get something she wants. Such as asking to see where Josie and her son lived, then using that knowledge to ransack Josie's home and take everthing that she and Michael once shared. For this reason, I kept waiting to find out some devious hidden reason for why Meredith befriends her again offering to take her to Europe with her, but that part of the story just dropped away. Getting back to the ransacked home, I also felt Josie's actions were implausible. Why didn't she call the police? Sure, it is explained away that she did not like the police, which is not so surprising with her heavy substance abuse problems--but, come on now! We're talking breaking and entering and robbery of all all the stuff that made up her life with the man she supposedly so desperately loved! <BR/><BR/>Like so many of us, when we are going through a difficult period, we often look for some kind of sign, and Josie, between drug and alcoholic hazes, keeps on doing that again and again. (What the recurring coyote image was supposed to mean is anyone's guess.) She believes she gets a sign out of something she finds at the end of the book, but it wasn't much--anything really--to go on. No matter. It helps her to get some closure, which after more than 400 long drawn-out pages made me just glad to see it come to an end. Just wrap a bunch of enigmatic thoughts and emotions in some deep French girl references, and let the reader make of it what she will. I was so hoping for Josie's character to grow some, but even as she attempts to rescue another forgotten girl at the end, I found it impossible to forget that she was still driving back to L.A. with drugs in her purse.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2008

    Paint It Black: A Short Review

    Paint It Black: A Short Review of Janet Fitch's Novel Having read and enjoyed White Oleander by Janet Fitch I suspected that her novel, Paint It Black 'Back Bay Books, Little, Brown & Company' would be a good read also. I was correct. I am reading slower than I used to. Perhaps it is the underlining and the marginal notes slowing me down, but I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. I've always loved stories about art, artists, musicians, and writers, and maybe that's why I was attracted to this story of Josie Tyrell, and the tragedies, loves, and nemeses of her life. The novel is rich in allusions, intense in conflict, and the author's prose and diction is rich. The novel is a portrait of Los Angeles and its bohemian rock music, film, and art scene. It is also a study of grief 'over a suicide' of artists, creativity, and their quests for perfection of dreams and dreamers of the heavy hand of guilt of beauty, love, loss, and sadness and of how people live in and are supported by the music they listen to. Fitch has amazing and intense insights into the human psyche and heart. I've tried to analyze why this novel affected me so deeply. Maybe it's because I've known nude models like Josie and writers, artists, and musicians like Michael. Perhaps it's because, like Michael, I am often haunted, and have my own personal demons, demons that refuse to be exorcised. Fitch is a brilliant and insightful writer. Her writing deserves our attention. Though there many more I could have selected, here are some of my favorite quotations from Paint it Black: 'Nobody ever really loved a lover. Because love was a private party, and nobody got on the guest list.' (1' )[E]ven lies could be true, if you knew how to listen.' (27) She just kept talking, like a drunk arguing with ghosts . . .(32) How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvass of experience, a testament to life and one's capacity to endure it.' (67)The stupid things you say in the rain, that can't ever be washed away.' (81) Pen had no sense that someone might want to keep her private life private. Privacy wasn't even a concept. She'd never closed a bathroom door in her life.' (83)Each man kills the thing he loves'--Oscar Wilde 'This is repeated many times in the novel and has to be a theme'. 'It was the way the world really ran, in little signs and signals.' (160) Girls were born knowing how destructive the truth could be.' (236) Sometimes things that happened were just too solid to move, like some huge bookcase or black breakfront that had dug its legs into the floor over the years.' (272) That kind of tenderness couldn't be permitted to last. Nothing that beautiful could live long. It wasn't allowed. You only got a taste . . . then you paid for it the rest of your life. Like the guy chained to rock, who stole fire . . . You paid for every second of beauty you managed to steal.' (278) You gave things away you couldn't afford to lose. Private things. You showed yourself and you couldn't take it back.' (306) Insomnia and the hulls of dead dreams blowing across the floor of the empty rooms like dry leaves.' (337) It was a mistake you could never recover from.' (351) Her soul' A moldy old scrap only fit throwing away, not even the devil would take it on consignment.' (361) I love the desert, and I love this quotation Fitch has' '[S]he understood people who'd choose to live like that, isolated in a dry hard terrain, so far from comfort . . . Hard people, whose own company was even more than they could stomach.' (378) And here: '[T]he Arabs invented zero, because they were a desert people, at home with absence. . . This was his landscape, bitter cold, populated only by rocks and strange leafless trees, no softness or mercy, no touch of green.' (411)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2006

    Beautifully Written

    Like White Oleander, this book was written with such vivid description that you feel as though you know the characters and have visited the places she writes about. This book does leave you feeling heavy but I couldn¿t put it down. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    A fascinating relationship drama

    Michael Faraday hated college so he left Harvard without a diploma to become an artist. He became a painter with growing accolades in Los Angeles. As his fame grew, his dark side also grew until by 1981 he committed suicide.---------------- Art model Josie Tyrell was falling in love with Michael, but could never get him to fully commit his heart and soul to her because of his deep ties to his famous mother, concert pianist Meredith Loewy. Each woman holds the other culpable for why Michael killed himself. Meredith blames the white trash Josie on the other hand Josie blames the aloof affluent Michael. However, ironically each begins to find solace with one another as they mourn the loss of the cherished one they both loved.--------------- PAINT IT BLACK is a fascinating relationship drama as the two women compete for the affection of Michael until he kills himself and they turn to one another for solace. Janet Fitch gets inside the souls of her triangle as the audience sees what drives Michael to suicide, why his mother lives in a sterile cold existence and how Josie is obsessed to overcome her trashy roots. Fans of contemporary character studies will enjoy Ms. Fitch¿s strong look at how relationships change when a pivotal life event (in this case death) occurs.------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Rough-around-the-edges Josie Tyrell loses the love of her life,

    Rough-around-the-edges Josie Tyrell loses the love of her life, and what follows are pages and pages…and then some more pages, of Josie trying to understand the tragedy and reclaim her life. 
    In the 418-page book that I read, I would estimate that there are less than 40 pages of things actually happening, including conversation. The writing is brilliant, and Fitch certainly has a way with words, but there was just too much introspection in this book to keep me interested. Credit to the author for being able to describe Josie’s emotional tar pit so vividly for such a large part of this novel, but after a bit I was left yearning for something to happen. 
    White Oleander is one of the best books that I have ever read. If, like me, reading that book makes you want to read this book, I caution you:  the only thing these two books have in common is the writing style. You could love this book - you could get sucked in to Josie’s mind and her struggles; you could be enchanted by the dirty punk scene; you could feel with Josie. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t, as much as I worked at it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    Love

    There is no holding back the raw emotions of death of those left behind. Wonderfully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Loved it.

    Purchased this book not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Can be dark at times, going into Josie's thoughts, and not knowing if she will take her own life. All said and done, I really enjoyed Paint it Black.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    Love

    I love this book. Ive read it multiple times and the same can be said for white oleander. I love janet fitchs writing style and i am always checking to see if shes writing another book, shes my favorite author by far.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    First white, now black and I'm beyond blue

    A novel for a brilliantly sunshiny day and a night of your favorite sitcom. You'll need it to counter this utterly depressing work that leaves you exhausted. If you're a fan of the melodramatic (as I am) it's right up your alley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Amazing!

    This is my favorite book ever written! Janet Fitch is an amazing author, I love her work!

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  • Posted April 13, 2011

    Exceptional!!

    Love love loved this! Couldn't put it down. Janet Fitch is a very skilled writer, very descriptive and thorough. The pictures she paints for the reader are vivid, and the emotion is real. I am eager to read more by her...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    Captures the reality of the relationship

    Anyone who has been romantically involved with an artist and dealt with depression or other psychological abnormalities will love this book. Especially if it happens to fit the scene, young punk rocker trying to decide what is valuable and what is trivial; and the most important question, how much of them are you responsible for?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Dark story about a suicide

    Interestingly enough, this is both a page-turner and a definite downer. Don't read it if you are feeling depressed.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    didn't disappoint!

    I was a huge fan of Janet Fitch after reading White Oleander, so if you enjoyed that book, this one will most likely appeal to you as well. It is equally dark and forlorn, and a bit depressing in subject, but it was captivating due to the characters. I found myself pondering the book in between readings, as it gives a lot of food for thought. Janet Fitch has a very dramatic writing style, some people have said too much so, but I really appreciate the detail she puts into describing the scenes and characters; it almost feels as if you can smell what they smell and taste what they taste. The dramatic start which finds Josie learning about her boyfriend's suicide pretty much sets the tone for the entire book, but the great thing about it is that you really learn about their relationship over the course of the novel, and the realization of the devastation to the reader doesn't fully sink in until their characters are completely unfolded before us. if you are looking for a happy ending, this may not be your read, which is pretty obvious from the beginning. but it certainly doesn't disappoint in drama or emotion. I thought it was touching, though twisted, and the author isn't afraid to create flawed characters who come to life beautifully through description.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An interesting perspective on tragedy that I'd never imagined

    I purchased this audio book after having read White Oleander by the same author. I put it in and, at first, I was taken back by the swearing and the dark beginning. I began to wonder if I'd become so much of a mother and a wife that I couldn't see myself enjoying the book. I decided that I hadn't so I kept listening while I worked on some mindless computer work. After a while I was completely intrigued with the subject and how the characters dealt with the tragedy presented to them.
    I began to really see the void that suicide leaves in the lives of survivors. I've never thought much about suicide because I was never affected by it. This was a very thought provoking and rawly emotional story. The other subject that hung in the air was love. Not just any love, the love of a soul mate. I could actually feel the pain in the story because of the fantasticly desccriptive art of Janet Fitch.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    A gorgeous tragedy

    Janet Fitch's "Paint It Black" is the dark but beautifully told story of Josie, a Los Angeles art model from the wrong side of the tracks, and her fated relationship with Michael, a wealthy heir with burdensome genius. Fitch's use of language, imagery, and elements of popular culture weave a powerful and moving tapestry of a life enmeshed in sex, drugs, rock and roll, grief, and heartbreak, and its collision with the upper echalante, which hides a million skeletons in its closet.

    "Paint It Black" is not a book for the non-cerebral reader, nor is it a book that will leave you with a hopeful or happy feeling once you reach its end. Rather, it is a case study in the grief-catalyzed total upheaval of a life and how we all try to put the pieces back together. Nevertheless, anyone who appreciates well-written literature will enjoy this book. Fitch is a master of character development and really makes the reader feel the rawness of Josie's experiences.

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    good book

    i like the setting: drugs, sex, rock n roll, in hollywood. great book!

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    Still don't really know the point...

    This book starts out interesting and then quickly dies off. I finished it hoping I'd eventually find the point or a climax, but, in the end, I was just dissapointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    Different.

    Paint It Black was completely different than White Oleander. In my opinion, the two books were the exact opposite.
    However, that only made Paint It Black that much better. This book proved that Janet Fitch could be incredibly versatile. I thought that Josie was such a realistic character, and I enjoyed being in her position and being with her for a short period of time.
    Also, the love between Josie and Michael was so original.
    Everyone should really give Paint It Black a try; it is a good read.

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