I was confused about this book. Everything from the cover blurbs to the introduction made me assume this was a novel — one of those “Adventures in Research” stories I like so much, but about art instead of literature. Then I got a couple of chapters in and realized … this was non-fiction.
Those who know my reading habits well know that I’m primarily a fiction reader. When I pick up non-fiction, it’s often a memoir, so there’s still a strong narrative line to carry me through. A book like The Lost Painting reminds me of all the reasons why reading nonfiction can be great.
The book tells about the art historians involved in the quest for a lost Caravaggio painting called The Taking of Christ. Harr’s descriptions and characterizations are so vivid that the story is as engrossing as a novel, while delivering a huge amount of information about art history and the process of restoring old paintings. He takes a subject about which I knew nothing and educates while entertaining. The Lost Painting was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I highly recommend it, even to those, like me, who know little about art.