Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Jackal in the Garden

The Jackal in the Garden: An Encounter with Bihzad, by Deborah Ellis

YA/Canadian/Historical Fiction?

Part of a new series called "Art Encounters" that is, apparently, designed to introduce young readers to the lives of famous historical artists. The artist in this book
is Persian miniaturist Kamal al-Din Bihzad (1460-1535). However, the story is really that of Anubis, a girl whose life is very different from that of Bihzad, but who meets him, and is affected by him, and has an effect on his life and work.

Anubis is a girl, born disfigured and ugly. As a baby, her father sent her to the desert to die, but she survived to be raised in secret by her mother and the other women of the harem. But, as a teen, she finds herself homeless and she wanders the desert for a time. When she finally arrives in Herat (in modern day Afghanistan), she is taken in by Bihzad and other artists who live in a Colony.

The book is interesting, though I did not find myself as enthralled as other readers have been. I had not, previously been acquainted with this particular artist, but will now have to look him up. There is a lot of discussion about the art and the meaning of various elements of the paintings which will probably mean a lot more after having seen the art. It might have been a good idea for the publishers to reproduce examples of the work within the book, for those of us who are not already experts.

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