A Trick of The Eye

Overview

Richard has started seeing things. And hearing them too. Suddenly he has discovered that he can communicate with the characters in paintings. And they've begun to tell him that there's something he has forgotten—something important in his past that he'll be able to remember if only he can find the right painting. Does he dare look for it? Does he dare remember?

In this intriguing, intricate novel with a Gothic flare, Dennis Haseley has spun a ...

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Overview

Richard has started seeing things. And hearing them too. Suddenly he has discovered that he can communicate with the characters in paintings. And they've begun to tell him that there's something he has forgotten—something important in his past that he'll be able to remember if only he can find the right painting. Does he dare look for it? Does he dare remember?

In this intriguing, intricate novel with a Gothic flare, Dennis Haseley has spun a breathtakingly original mystery. The ending will astonish you.

Upon discovering that he can enter paintings and speak with the people in them, a twelve-year-old boy sets out on a journey of discovery that ultimately leads to his own forgotten past.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Elliptical in its storytelling and circuitous in its structure, Haseley's (The Amazing Thinking Machine) mannered novel will likely intrigue some readers with its notions about art as illusion, but may leave others confused or even bored. Richard, referred to as "the boy," seems to be entering the painting that hangs in his house and talking with the figures within. Educated at home, by a tutor (the story is set in an indeterminate past), Richard has been expelled from school because of his violent response to a suddenly surfacing memory of a trauma from early childhood. Now the figures in the paintings seem to be giving Richard clues about another mystery in his past, which may or may not be connected to thefts from a nearby art gallery. A long sequence has Richard at a museum, entering masterpieces la James Mayhew's Katie books and talking to the subjects. But is "the boy" actually wandering into the paintings and solving a mystery, or is he losing his mind? The author writes in impressionistic, attenuated prose with figures piping up in strange voices ("He said cooo cooo cooo. He said la, she said la la laaaaa"). The cloud of ambiguity does not lift until the last few pages, when one of the characters spells out the tragedies that Richard has witnessed and hidden even from himself. Unfortunately, readers may not care enough about Richard to puzzle out the mystifications. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
An intricate fantasy novel becomes a reader's delight from the opening scenes of figures inside a pastoral painting engaged in rapid-fire chat with Richard, an almost-thirteen-year-old. Richard lives in Britain with his mother, an unyielding writer of an etiquette column, and their French maid, Madeline. Roskins, a pompous tutor, instructs him in lessons, a curious situation because initially no reason is given for Richard being absent from formal school. Enticed by the farm scene, Richard feels he is part of the artwork, sensing that the talking characters might provide clues to his mysterious past. After querying Roskins about famous paintings, Richard, using Madeline's directions, embarks on a quest to a museum, hoping to pinpoint the source of his haunting memories. At the art exhibition, several paintings speak rudely, accusing him of being "a mover," but their words also reveal clues about Richard's youth. The first third of the story is purposely cryptic, leaving readers not familiar with sophisticated fantasy or art perplexed about the direction of the novel. Richard's comprehension of messages from the paintings accelerates the story, and a secret shrouded for nine years ultimately is exposed. Set in a time featuring gaslights and horse-drawn carriages, this novel will appeal to teens who enjoy a mystical story in which nothing is as it seems and where illusions and deception occur in both life and art. The last page of the book lists the real paintings Richard encounters and where they can be found today. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to12). 2004, Dial, 199p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Rollie Welch
Children's Literature
Twelve-year-old Richard lives a lonely life. Fatherless and sharing a home with a reserved mother who provides etiquette advice to readers in the local paper, he spends his days learning about ancient Rome under the tutelage of his hired teacher. When Richard learns that he has the ability to enter paintings and communicate with the figures that inhabit them, he is drawn into a mystery that calls into question what he believes to be true about his past. As he pieces together the clues that tie together a collection of paintings, he uncovers the truth about his real mother, the artist who paints her, and his own identity. Densely written with language that sometimes hinders engagement, the novel is unlikely to appeal to a wide array of young readers. It is difficult to develop a sense of empathy for Richard and his plight due his lack of development and distanced portrayal; we do not really know what moves, angers, or inspires him. Although the novel is centered around an interesting premise, it fails to entice readers to stick with the story and see the mystery through to the end. 2004, Dial Books, Ages 12 to 16.
—Wendy Glenn, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-Richard talks to the characters in paintings; they respond. They seem to be telling him that he has forgotten something important in his past. Confused and friendless, the boy lives with his mother, who has told him that his father drowned in a shipwreck. A tutor teaches him at home, but he can't remember why he has been sent away from school. Second-rate, slightly altered copies of famous paintings are being stolen from galleries in his city, and they become clues for Richard. For most of this novel, readers wonder if they are reading about the descent into madness of a bewildered and disturbed boy. It is only in the last dozen or so pages that the story becomes somewhat clearer. Readers learn that nine years ago, when Richard was three, he spied on his uncle, a painter for whom Richard's mother, Annabel, was modeling and with whom she was having an affair. When she tells him that she is involved with another man, the painter murders her and Richard witnesses the crime. His aunt, Annabel's sister, ships her husband off to a mental institution and raises the boy as her own. Richard realizes that his aunt has loved him, and is ready to go back to school and get on with his life. Minimally drawn characters and a weak plot that is puzzling and ambiguous give this brooding tale limited appeal. There is an impressionistic, surreal quality to the novel that makes it difficult to read.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Young Richard (12) is a mover; he has the eerie ability to move into and out of paintings, where the figures speak to him and he to them. Victorian archness, a foreboding atmosphere, and the strangeness of his widowed mother, who writes a manners column, contour the plot that slowly builds into a surreal tale akin to The Portrait of Dorian Gray as emotions funnel around the void in Richard's life dominated by paintings. As he searches for stolen paintings by F. Jones that seem to hold the key to his foggy past, Richard pieces together the twisted tale of unseemly family entanglements image by remembered image, daubed with waves, maps, a woman in a blue dress, and his father's death. The 11 paintings that Richard enters are listed at the end along with the location where they are held on display. The gaslight-like pace and dark uneasiness that hovers between reality and fantasy will require a sophisticated reader. Plodding, but bizarrely intriguing. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803728561
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/27/2004
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.86 (d)

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