Michele Zackheim

"Broken Colors"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple NOV 27, 2007)

"In oil painting, when two or more pigments of different colors are combined, 'broken colors' occur.  Here, for example, is viridian...See, it's a bright, pure tone of emerald green.  Now, I can create a fake viridian by mixing a blue with a yellow.  See?  It looks close, doesn't it?  But the difference is that it won't reflect the red light waves that makes viridian so fresh.  You have to remember to keep colors luminous and vibrant, it's important not to muddy your palette."

Sophie Marks is an artist who has experienced many tragedies in her life, all of which have affected her ability to experience pure love.  She spends her toddler years in England after losing both her parents.  As a college student during the Blitz of War II, she loses everyone else who is close to her.   Even in her years as a mature artist, she suffers—unable to trust, unable to share her pain, unable to talk about the depths of her sorrow, and unable to open herself completely.  Living a life that often consists of "broken colors," Sophie sometimes fails to recognize what is pure and true and fails to see that she herself sometimes creates the "broken colors" which muddy the palette of her own life.

Author Michele Zackheim develops Sophie's emotional and creative life from her early childhood until she is a woman of eighty, as she struggles, first, to become a successful artist, primarily of portraits, and second, to become a successful person, one who is an independent thinker but who is open to love.  It is the "love" part which is the most difficult for her.  Sometimes confusing love and sex, she makes mistakes, "loving" the wrong person, trusting lovers who excite her but whom she truly does not know, and finally experiencing real love but taking it for granted until it is too late.  Or is it? 

Zackheim brings this novel to life by recreating the intensity of the artistic experience--what drives the artist, how the artist sees the world and captures a vision on canvas, the choices each artist makes as s/he allows an inner vision to come to life, and how the artist's own life affects what s/he sees and reveals in his/her work.  An acclaimed artist herself, before becoming a writer, Zackheim writes with the color and emotional fervor of a painter, creating a canvas of words which bring Sophie to life just as Sophie's portraits bring her own subjects to life. 

As Sophie moves from England to Italy and the American Southwest, and then returns late in life to the scenes of her childhood in England and a place where she experienced happiness in Italy, the reader moves with her, grieving and loving as she does, empathizing with her pain and her triumphs, and hoping that she will make choices which allow her to grow and flourish.  Hers is a vibrant, passionate life, described here in vibrant, passionate language.  Responding to the world viscerally, Sophie lives on the edge, both personally and professionally.  When as an old woman she finally comes to terms with her "broken colors," the reader hopes as much as Sophie does that she will finally see life and love in pure viridian.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 10 reviews

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About the Author:

Michele Zackheim worked as a visual artist before turning to writing. She has shown in numerous museums and galleries. Her sister is author Victoria Zackheim. Michele lives with her husband in New York.

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