By Kim Devereux
Atlantic Books – £12.99
Even against his will he feels comfort seeping through him. He closes his lids. Her fingers stroke his hand, their very gentleness uncorking his emotion. His body doubles over, somehow producing sobs despite his efforts to prevent them. Suffering – how inadequate a word for his apocalypse.
At best a love story – with an insight into the mind of one of the greatest painters the world has ever known – Rembrandt’s Mirror is a literary journey of the most profound sobriety.
Both chronological and somewhat linear in the telling, authoress Kim Devereux herein explores the three women of Rembrandt van Rijn’s life – as seen not only through the tumultuous prism of passion one has come to equate with the artist, but also the eyes of his last great love, the coy and coquettish Calvinist, Hendrickje.
Along the way, we as readers (or should I say, innocent bystanders) are informed and invariably touched by the degree of inherent sorrow and tenderness throughout; which I have to say, is surprisingly moving: ”His arms opened and we embraced. We stood like this for a lifetime. I held him in his maturity, as a baby and as a dying man. I sank deeper into his chest as if into Mother Earth herself. I felt his care for me as I grew younger, and younger still, until I was a newborn and then nothing at all.
This nothing-me felt the touch of his lips. Felt them but not the way I’d felt them before, more like the ocean holds the fish that swim in it. I was each wavelet and the stillness at the bottom where no current stirs” (‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’).
By way of occasionally taking the reader through the rough and ready streets of seventeenth century Amsterdam, the authoress herself, does much to paint a picture that is as authentic as it is adroit in explanation. Primarily that of Rembrandt’s anguish, as regaled and suffused by Hendrickje – over a period of many years, where ”perhaps love and truth did dwell.”