The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex

Recently, I attended Somerset Celebration of Literature at Somerset College on the Gold Coast. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Gabrielle Williams’ sessions. I have been a huge fan of Gabrielle’s for some time, Beatle Meets Destiny being one of my favourite books.

During the session, Gabrielle spoke about her book The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex and it reminded me of how much I loved the book, and so I decided to reread it.

I love books that are a blend of truth and fiction. When authors take an event that has happened and weave it into a story, I find it endlessly fascinating. For days after I find myself googling different elements of the story to learn more. The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex is based on the infamous theft of Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ from the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) by a group called Australian Cultural Terrorists.

“On 2 August 1986, a group calling itself the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole one of the world’s most iconic paintings – Picasso’s Weeping Woman – off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held it to ransom, demanding an increase in government funding for artists in Victoria. The painting was the subject of an international manhunt involving Interpol, Scotland Yard and the Australian Federal Police.

The Australian Cultural Terrorists were never found.”

It is almost inconceivable to imagine this theft occurring, and that the theft was so simply orchestrated. While googling the incident, I found an article in The Sydney Morning Herald by chief conservator Thomas Dixson (https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/thomas-dixon-first-person-weeping-woman-20160623-gpqixc.html).

“Art gallery security in 1986 was primitive by today’s standards. I had been on staff at two major art galleries in the US and can attest that NGV facilities and procedures were pretty much on par with the art world of the time.

This meant that at 5 pm attendants locked up the gallery and did a perfunctory walk-through and beat a hasty exit leaving a skeleton staff overnight.

Lacking CCTV and motion detectors, the four-storey building was secured by two attendants’ hourly patrols with hand torches. A thief could simply conceal themselves until after closing and wait for a patrol to pass. They then had an hour or so until another patrol. Come morning they could mingle with other visitors and leave unnoticed. It wouldn’t take genius, just bravado.”

Gabrielle spins a story with four principal characters – Guy (The Guy), Rafi (The Girl), Luke (The Artist) and Penny (The Ex) and with a tremendous supporting cast tells their stories which she then weaves together to become one story. The book is told in third person alternating chapters. In the beginning, you don’t quite understand how all these characters stories are connected, but Gabrielle does a great job of intersecting their lives in surprising ways.

What I particularly like about books that revolve around an event that actually happened is the excerpts from newspaper articles and letters to the editor to tell me what the vibe was at the time concerning the incident. At the time the people of Victoria were wavering between being outraged at the theft or perplexed and bemused that the ‘kindergarten-like’ painting has been stole and cracking jokes or suggesting the Gallery is better off without it in its collection.

                “Thank heavens

Thank heavens that monstrosity has been taken off the walls of our gallery.

ELLEN PORTER, Balwyn”

 

                “Tired old jokes

                Picasso was original, unlike the tired old jokes about children being able to                  do better.

ERIC HANOVER, Northcote”

 

The novel ties together four characters who don’t know each other, a curse, a party, love at first sight and an art heist. Quite a combination but Gabrielle Williams is a master storyteller, and she ties together all these elements effortlessly. The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex is a superbly crafted novel. Gabrielle Williams is an intelligent, discerning and compassionate writer and this her second YA novel is an engaging, quirky page-turner.

 

 

 

 

5 Brilliant YA novels you need in your life

blue

If you love books and bookshops, you will adore this book because this is a love letter to books, words and bookshops. Cath Crowley writes with love and humour, and you can’t help but be swept up in this book about grief, love and the power of words. Her characters are gorgeous, yet flawed and complicated. This is a book that every lover of books needs in their life.

“‘But I love you, and before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learnt to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

beautiful

Beautiful Mess is a beautifully written novel. I loved it from the moment Ava started screaming at Mr Bryan on the first page. The story is driven by the beautiful, gutsy, grief-stricken Ava. She has lost her best friend Kelly, and she is angry and making not so right choices in life. She meets Gideon, and he helps her through her grief. Shy, anxious Gideon has his own issues, but Ava and Gideon through writing letters and poetry find their way through their pain and issues and come out on the other side. Claire Christian deals with some weighty issues, but she navigates these issues with humour and love. She captures the rawness of grief exquisitely, particularly grief associated with suicide. I loved the letters and the poetry (I love letters!), and I LOVED the ending!

yellow

Yellow is an engaging and well-written book. A lot is going on in the book – Kirra is a fourteen-year-old girl who has a troubled home life, is being bullied at school and she encounters a ghost! But somehow Megan Jacobson makes it work and makes it work brilliantly. The characters are likeable, and the small Australian beach town adds to the book wonderfully. When I first read the blurb for this book and saw that it had a supernatural element, I was immediately sceptical, but once I had read the first page, I was hooked.

               “I know this to be true: there is a special corner of hell that’s called being a fourteen-year-old girl.”

This is a book that you’ll find confronting at times, but then suddenly you will be laughing and then entirely out of the blue it will throw in a twist. It is quite the read!

sidekicks

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis is a beautifully written, genuinely funny book. Ryan, Harley and Miles don’t have much in common except for their mutual best-friend, Isaac. The beautiful, charming Isaac who died too soon. The book is divided up into three parts, and we hear from all three boys and find out why Isaac was so crucial to each and every one of the boys. The boys are all different and yet all viewed Isaac as their best friend. Ryan is the golden-boy jock. Harley is the rebel. Miles is the class nerd. As the stories are told we learn more about Isaac, and we learn more about each of the boys’ through the eyes of the other boys. There are heaps of laughs in this book, and at times you will find yourself laughing out loud, and at other times your heart will break for each and every boy.

beatle

Beatle Meets Destiny. This is one of my favourite books.  John “Beatle” Lennon meets Destiny McCartney on Friday the 13th and Beatle being a highly superstitious boy decides that their meeting is fate. The only trouble is that Beatle has a girlfriend named Cilla, who happens to be pretty amazing. The story continues on in this manner where Beatle and Destiny continued to stumble across each other in bizarre and yet utterly believable ways. Destiny is feisty and gorgeous, and Beatle has quite the dilemma on his hands. The book is all about chance and fate. It is about being young and making mistakes and then making more mistakes! It is hilarious. If you like quirky comedies, you will love this book. The story plays out in Melbourne which becomes another character in the novel. A brilliant novel by a brilliant writer – Gabrielle Williams.