Garden of the Peacocks

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Anthony Weller's debut, The Garden of the Peacocks, is an exquisite and intricate novel that ranges from Havana to New York, Barcelona, and the Bahamas. Spanning five decades, it follows a father and daughter haunted by artistic genius, exile and suicide. In the tradition of W. Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence and Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth, it illuminates unforgettably the sacrifices and deep contradictions behind great art - and the heavy price paid for immortal ...
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Overview

Anthony Weller's debut, The Garden of the Peacocks, is an exquisite and intricate novel that ranges from Havana to New York, Barcelona, and the Bahamas. Spanning five decades, it follows a father and daughter haunted by artistic genius, exile and suicide. In the tradition of W. Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence and Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth, it illuminates unforgettably the sacrifices and deep contradictions behind great art - and the heavy price paid for immortal beauty by those around it.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Weller's debut makes good use of one of literature's more venerable devices: a room, or any constructed space, that serves as a metaphor for one character's mind and soul. Cristbal de la Toree, the world-famous sculptor and Cuban exile, did not die in a sailing accident as the entire world supposes. That was a hoax he cooked up so he could flee to a deserted Bahamian cay that once housed a leper colony. There, accompanied only by his man-Friday, an indispensable fellow named Scully Moses, he has just finished his crowning glory: a labyrinth of murals made of coral mosaic surrounding a garden filled with tame peacocks. Although he jealously guards his secret from the world, Cristbal has sent long, impassioned letters to his estranged daughter, Esther, imploring her to visit him. The novel begins with Esther arriving in Nassau from her adoptive Switzerland, having been seduced by her father's claim that he is dying. Esther hates, fears and wants something from her father. She sees him as a sacred monster who has gone to great lengths to distance himself from her and, she feels, from the haunting memory of her mother. In Nassau, Esther meets American photographer Thomas Simmons, with whom she begins an affair. Frightened of being in love, she hies off to Cristbal's island, where waves of bitterness and resentment rise between father and daughter as predictably as the tides. But it isn't until Thomas, tenacious suitor that he is, arrives on the scene that things get truly ugly. Cristbal's Picasso-like vanity and histrionics become a bit tiresome, and the revelation of his minotaurthe family secret at the center of the labyrinth and the novelis somewhat anticlimactic. But Weller has written an intelligent meditation on art's rewards-and also on its costs. Oct.
Library Journal
This debut novel, written from the perspectives of all four characters, centers on a famous Cuban sculptor named Cristobal. The aging Cristobal hides out on a deserted island in the Bahamas, away from the public, who believes he has drowned. Only island native Scully Moses and Cristobal's daughter, Esther, are aware that he is still alive. After many years, Cristobal convinces Esther, who holds her father responsible for her mother's suicide, that he is dying. Esther reluctantly comes to the island. Thomas Simmons, a photographer she has an affair with on the way, follows her there. In a miraculous chain of events, Simmons becomes the first outside person to stumble on Cristobal's masterpiecea spectacular seashell mosaic that portrays the acute fears and desires of Cristobal in an uncanny maze. The interactions of all four characters on the island provide an absorbing examination of the fragile nature of human relationships. The author's rich style complements his spirited characters and engrossing plot. Recommended for all library collections.David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Kirkus Reviews
An intellectually ambitious first novel about a young woman whose happiness is threatened by a family legacy mingling tragedy and genius.

When noted American photographer Thomas Simmons decides to spend Christmas in the Bahamas, he is feeling jaded and depressed about his work. A chance meeting and a brief affair with intriguingly mysterious Esther Gautier, just in from Geneva and staying at the same hotel, however, soon affects both his emotions and his artistic ambitions. Esther, there to visit her father, Cristóbal de la Torre, who has told her that he is dying, is waiting to take a small plane to the tiny island he inhabits. Cristóbal, a famous Cuban-born sculptor who was friends with Picasso and the like, is devoting his declining years to his masterpiece, a memorial to his dead wife, Therése, that would recall their short life together, his understanding of the past, and his vision of the future. Esther, who blamed him for her young mother's suicide, and for her own lonely childhood spent with relatives in Europe, finds her father far from dying, and, angered by his duplicity, refuses to see his work. She's soon joined by Thomas, who, having learned her real identity, has tracked her down. He's enchanted with Cristóbal, a Prospero-like figure who has magically transformed the island itself into a work of art—"The Garden of the Peacocks." But Esther, soured by the license that art claims, is neither appeased by her father's confessions of error nor by his talk of the past, of pre-revolutionary Cuba, and of his peripatetic life. Only when she confronts the work's centerpiece does she understand at last his love for her and her mother. And Thomas, no longer jaded, is about to take the photos of a lifetime.

An obviously intelligent debut novel that's better, though, at describing places and ideas than people—who often seem less alive than the sculpture.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569246962
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.89 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2000

    Beautifully written and poetic novel

    There are few modern novels as richly imagined as The Garden of the Peacocks. The novel's themes are ambitious, but handled deftly. Weller draws compelling and vivid portraits of his characters and their environment. These are people and places that linger with the reader: the images are poetically but compactly rendered, and the dialogue is intelligent and witty.

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