Monday, November 11, 2013

G205 Book Review of The Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman

Name of Book: The Color of Light

Author: Helen Maryles Shankman

ISBN: 9781490473246

Publisher: Stony Creek Press

Type of book: Holocaust, romance, vampires, art, 1940s, 1992-1993, passion, angel of healing, Judaism, New York, supernatural, classical art school vs modern art school, elegance, colors, Concentration Camp, Poland, France, friendship, magazines, unrequited love, secrets

Year it was published: 2013


NEW YORK CITY, 1992. At the American Academy of Classical Art, popular opinion has it that the school’s handsome and mysterious founder, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire. It is a rumor Rafe does nothing to dispel.

Scholarship student Tessa Moss has long dreamed of the chance to study at Rafe’s Academy. But she is floundering amidst the ups and downs of a relationship with egotistical art star Lucian Swain.
Then, one of Tessa’s sketches catches Rafe’s attention: a drawing of a young woman in 1930s clothing who is covering the eyes of a child. The suitcase at her feet says Wizotsky. Sofia Wizotsky, the love of Rafe’s life, was lost during the Holocaust.

Or was she? Rafe suspects Tessa may be the key to discovering what really happened.

As Rafe finds excuses to interact with Tessa, they cannot deny their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction forbidden by the Academy Board and disapproved of by anyone familiar with Rafe’s playboy reputation and Tessa’s softhearted innocence.

But Tessa senses the truth: despite his wealth, his women, and his townhouse filled with rare and beautiful treasures, Rafe is a haunted man…for reasons that have nothing to do with the rumors they whisper about him at school.

Intensely romantic and deeply moving, The Color of Light blends fact and fantasy in an unforgettable tale of art and passion, love and war, guilt and forgiveness, spanning the New York art scene, high-fashion magazine publishing, the glittering café society of pre-World War II Paris, and the evil stalking the back roads of Nazi-occupied Europe.


Unfortunately I was denied the rituals and celebrations that are part of my faith, and whenever I see a book with Jewish heroines, I really desire to watch her celebrate these celebrations that I was denied. Most of the times I get an impression that a heroine is Jewish by name only instead of faith, thus I loved that Tessa upholds and celebrates her faith. She is also a very strong heroine and is incredibly talented as well as inspiring protection and love in those around her. There is of course Rafe, a founder of an art school that focuses on old fashioned ways of drawing. I get an impression that he cannot let go of his past and doesn't want it to die and disappear like many other things in his life. There are other characters that play a huge role in the book such as Lucius Swain, an artist that Tessa secretly loves; April who is a modernist artist and has reputation for sexuality; there are Tessa's friends such as Portia, David, and few others whose names have escaped. There is Rafe's creator Anastasia  (Not Steel but much more elegant, beautiful, deadly and sophisticated.) as well as other characters whose names escape me.


Second chances are possible; history mirrors the present


Its written in third person narrative primarily from Raphael's and Tessa's point of views. The transitions tended to lack between the two characters' narratives, but it didn't really detract from my enjoyment. The author really knows how to torture-oops I mean tease-the audience when it comes to Rafe's mysterious past. She really builds up the tension with snippets here and there, keeping me on the leash as I watch the events unfold. However, when I finally get to it, I have difficulty getting through the past either due to subject matter, or how coincidentally the character I created years and years ago has matched up to Rafe's transformation. The third part of the book was a bit easier to get through, although I think certain events weren't tied up as neatly as I hoped.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

Originally, when Helen Maryles Shankman moved to New York, she thought she wanted to be an illustrator, to tell stories with paint.  A few years later, she discovered that what she really wanted to do was paint with words.
Her stories appear in The Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Grift, Danse Macabre, and She was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
For now she lives in New Jersey, with her husband, four kids, and a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd named Sky.
Her debut novel, The Color of Light, is coming from Stony Creek Press on Halloween, 2013.
Follow Helen on Twitter @hmshankman
“Like” THE COLOR OF LIGHT on Facebook
Visit Helen’s blog at


I don't have enough words to describe the luminosity of this novel. I have finished it few days ago, and am still struggling to think of ways of how much this book has blown me away, in more ways than one. When I first saw it, I knew I had to have it. No rhyme, no reason, I just knew; for one the book contains the meaning of my name within its title (Svetlana means light in Russian,) and here are some other weird coincidences; my great-grandmother's name also happened to be Sofia, and both Tessa and I share the same faith. What I also found peculiar is that there was a story that I was struggling to pen down, but somehow this book ended up being a catalyst for unlocking it. Okay, besides the weird coincidences, (some that I'm not mentioning,) what have I loved about this book? Every single word, every single sentence and thought and idea and so forth. Whenever I told some of my friends about it, I always described it as a vampire Holocaust novel which is something I've never seen. I loved that Tessa was truly a Jewish character and celebrated her faith through Shabbos and so forth. I also nearly cried for Raphael Sinclair's tragic story as well as his loss. I enjoyed the friendships that Raphael and Tessa shared with other students as well as the colors and motifs that the author uses throughout the book. The book will take you to elegant places of France before WWII, the village where Sophia's family comes from, New York's glamorous scenes and so forth. There are a few minor things that did bug me though; for one the twist towards the end happened a little too quickly for my liking, or basically it was sprang on a reader without a warning; for another I don't get what color is Tessa's hair and sometimes I tended to lose track of some relationships or who the characters are, and I was confused about whether or not Raphael could be seen in the daylight. Besides those minor inconveniences, I would highly recommend for this book to be read and bought and treasured. I do hope that one day it will end up as a classic. Something interesting: when I was in middle school, I took an art class where I learned this: if you put all the colors together they make up white; black means being devoid of color. Light is white, which I interpret it as genre wise; put all the genres together, and you have this wonderful masterpiece.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Thursday, October 31st:  Man of La Book
Monday, November 4th:  Must Read Faster
Tuesday, November 5th:  Shelf Pleasure - author guest post
Wednesday, November 6th:  Books Without Any Pictures
Thursday, November 7th:  Bookish Whimsy
Monday, November 11th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 12th:  Ageless Pages
Wednesday, November 13th:  Conceptual Reception
Thursday, November 14th:  Great Imaginations
Friday, November 15th:  Book-alicious Mama
Monday, November 18th:  From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 19th:  A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, November 21st:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 25th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, November 27th:  My Bookshelf

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like I need to dive into this book asap!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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