In Ducey’s nostalgic yet profoundly moving debut novel, a young artist raised in abject poverty escapes rural Brazil for London in a bid to throw off the shackles of his past.
Six-year-old Marco Antonio is the youngest and weakest of 10 brothers and sisters. His drunken, abusive father calls him Xexeu—worthless boy—and savagely beats him on a regular basis. His mother and sister Sara treat him with love and affection, but they’re powerless to protect him from the brutal patriarch whose very presence strikes fear into their hearts. Marco spends his formative years skulking in the shadows, evading his father’s attention and heavy blows. In doing so he finds solace in the natural world, particularly in the vivid palette of colors that surround him. The author’s keen, painterly eye first becomes apparent when describing the young boy fascinated by light and hues as he plays with oil in a puddle. As Marco grows older, he seeks solace in the Catholic Church but finds only hypocrisy and misguided altruism at the hands of a predatory priest. His inner artistic vision proves to be the one dependable force capable of distracting him from the gnawing pain of everyday life. He changes his name to Lucas after fleeing to London, an old-world city in which he believes he can build a new life. In this contemporary künstlerroman, Ducey brilliantly handles the cultural challenges of emigration and the joy and trauma of assimilating. The streets of London come alive in vivid detail as seen through the eyes of the artist. A prodigious talent, combined with a chance encounter with art dealer Alistair Fitzroy, propels Lucas to the forefront of the London art scene. Yet, despite newfound wealth, fame and the tender understanding of a new lover, he struggles to slough the calloused skin of his former life. Only when he begins to draw a small boy in charcoal does he sense a burgeoning catharsis; the denouement will claw at the reader’s heart.
An elegant, multifaceted and emotionally compelling portrait of an artist as a young man.