Book Review: The Crimson Portrait

During the spring of 1915, recently widowed Catherine fulfills the promise she made to her wealthy husband Charles just before he marched away to WWI by allowing his estate to be turned into an army hospital. She could scarcely have imagined the changes that decision would bring to her life beginning with the removal of every mirror from the mansion in preparation for the severely wounded patients.

Surgeon Dr. McCleary heads up the medical staff as he attempts to rebuild the faces of the shattered men and keep Artis, a former groundskeeper turned aspiring doctor from the draft. Artist Anna Coleman sketches faces of the wounded men, forming a template for the doctors’ reconstruction efforts. As Catherine begins adjusting to her new situation she finds herself drawn to Julian, one of the wounded men while certain her husband still roams the property. Using Anna’s artistic talent, Catherine begins plotting how to turn Julian’s reconstructive surgery into a way of recapturing the visage of her dead husband in this thought provoking, evocative tale of love, loss and hope. Shields has assembled a strong, moving tale with finely nuanced characters, an unusual perspective on the nature of war complete with sometimes graphic medical details and an astute understanding of human nature.

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