LENOIR by Ken Greenhall


A Novel
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Greenhall’s sharp-eyed and tart-tongued fifth (Elizabeth, 1976, published under the pseudonym of Jessica Hamilton) takes a fresh, lively look at the art world of 17th-century Europe as a slave is passed by his gay owner-hustler from a modeling job with Rembrandt to one with Rubens. In Amsterdam, the African Lenoir is engaged as a model by Rembrandt after furious wheeling and dealing by his master Twee, and the subsequent sessions introduce him to that city’s quieter, more refined side of life, which is quickly counterbalanced by seamier activities once the time with Rembrandt is over. For Twee, whose restless company and reading aloud of Don Quixote Lenoir enjoys in spite of their legal relationship, has also pledged his slave’s knowledge of juju (voodoo) to an unscrupulous doctor who wants a fresh corpse for his new venture in the anatomical theater. Unfortunately, Lenoir falls in love with the prostitute who’s been cast as the victim, but while he’s trying to find a way to protect her, someone else does her in. Suspicion for her death falls on him, and only the intercession of Rembrandt’s powerful friends, who buy Lenoir’s freedom, keeps him safe—until another misadventure with Twee results in the death of a sheriff’s deputy who’s tailing them. Nothing can save the two then, so they head for Antwerp in the dark of night, joining a troupe of traveling Italian actors. In Antwerp, Rubens welcomes Lenoir, even finding a place for him in the studio once the African’s remarkable memory for color is discovered. But good fortune fades as, one by one, all of Lenoir’s favorite people take leave of him, by death or by choice, until the day finally comes when it’s his own turn to move along. Cervantes casts a long shadow over this story, to be sure, but the pace is brisk and the wit abundant: a rare tale that’s able both to entertain and enlighten.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-944072-93-3
Page count: 272pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998