Initial Thoughts: I was so excited when I won an advanced copy of this book from the Goodreads giveaway. I love novels that take place in the Victorian era, especially classic novels that were written during the 1800s in Victorian England. The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray is a retelling of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray, with a twist.
Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn’t so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances.
When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she’s inherited from her missing father. It turns out, Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it’s spreading fast.
With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.” – Goodreads
As I had mentioned, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray is a retelling of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Rest assured, you don’t really need to have read The Portrait of Dorian Gray before reading this book. I still haven’t read Wilde’s novel, and I was able to read this novel without feeling as if I were missing out. Of course, for whatever reason, I completely neglected to notice there was a connection between Bryony Gray and Dorian Gray until I was midway through the book (call it a reader’s forgetfulness).
Bryony Gray wishes she could be an ordinary girl with a family who loves, her and friends she could go on adventures with. Instead, she has been locked away in an attic by her aunt and uncle and forced to paint portraits of all the wealthy lords and ladies who come her way. At age thirteen, Bryony is a prodigy, and her paintings are the talk of all of London. Suddenly, there have been strange occurrences surrounding Bryony’s portraits. Bryony’s paintings are so realistic that they have come to life! Little did she know, Bryony has awakened a deadly curse that has turned all of her paintings into monsters.
I found the storyline to be very imaginative and entertaining, however, there appears to be a great lack of characterization. Bryony appears in the story as a Harry Potter figure, kept locked away by her aunt and uncle. They spread rumours around that she is crazy. Meanwhile, Bryony dreams of a better life with her mysterious patron who has been sending her letters of encouragement. Even though I have a sense of Bryony’s backstory, she didn’t seem to leap off the page in my imagination unlike her portraits. I liked the secondary characters for their quirks and humour, but even they felt like caricatures instead of characters.
What I really did enjoy about the novel was its distinct Victorian feel. The dialogue and the descriptions breathed life into the pages. I liked how Bryony would recite facts of artists when she was nervous. Honestly, I have learned many so many new facts about painters after reading this book.
I would recommend this book for those who enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Coraline by: Neil Gaiman.
About the Book
Title: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray Author: E. Latimer Year Published: 2018 (expected publication February 18th, 2018) Genres & Subjects: Fiction, Middle grade, Victorian, Retelling,
Until Next Time,