Book Review: The Painter by Peter Heller

The Painter by Peter Heller

The Painter: What it is about

From the publishers: “Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.

A stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life.

The Painter: What I thought

I loved Heller’s first novel, The Dog Stars, and I hoped for another great read. I was a little disappointed. The story is slow, very slow. Jim self-indulges in grief and misery a lot. Maybe that’s not surprising, given his background, but it didn’t make for a particularly interesting read. I could have done without some of his thinking and philosophizing.

On the other hand, there was also a good story in this book. Jim does something he never thought he could do, which changes his whole life. Okay, so he turns into a criminal. It’s sort of a turned-around mystery. You hope the criminal, Jim, does not get caught. How odd is that? But even though his crime was pretty bad, I could not help thinking it was a one-off. Until it wasn’t. And even then I was on his side.

So, my mind was played with quite badly. That was so well done! Overall, the story was just too slow, unfortunately.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (Okay to good)

Number of pages: 288

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publishers, Knopf, for review

Genre: contemporary fiction



About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Book Review: The Painter by Peter Heller

  1. I’ve heard from others that this is a little slow and not as good as The Dog Stars. I guess not every book can be a hit.

  2. diane says:

    Oh no — I am looking forward to this one, so I’ll be curious if it’s too slow for me as well.

  3. bibliosue says:

    I felt bad that I couldn’t get into The Dog Stars but this book doesn’t sound interesting to me either. I am sorry that it wasn’t what you expected.

  4. Leslie says:

    I’m about half-way through this and agree, good story but very slow.

  5. Athira says:

    I have Dog Stars on my to-read list, so it is disappointing that this one is not as good. I will fence this one for now.

  6. Marie says:

    I haven’t heard of this before but it does sound a bit slow, and quite depressing! I have The Dog Stars on my TBR but still haven’t got around to reading it despite the many, many glowing reviews it has claimed. Must try my best to get around to it soon!

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