Book Jacket


rank  Editors Pick
word count 18054
date submitted 13.03.2012
date updated 18.03.2014
genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
classification: universal


Violet Wells

“Today's target is Florence.”


Freddie St Aubyn pilots a Lancaster bomber. Today he will have to drop his load of bombs on the city where his wife lives.

His wife Isabella is an Italian portrait painter. She paints from nature, she paints what she sees.

Oskar Joos studied at the same art school as Isabella. He is a German Jew. Living in Paris when war broke out. He escaped the 1942 roundup of Jews and has arrived in Italy with his young daughter.

Florence between September 1943 and August 1944 is a city in the thrall of the secret police. A city where most are in hiding, masked behind fake identity papers; where it is dangerous to trust anyone with the truth, where no one is allowed to know what the truth is.

Isabella continues to paint. Continues to pursue the truth of her vision. Until she is called upon to forge an old master painting for a high ranking SS officer. Pontormo's image of St Anthony, patron saint of lost things.

Freddie, Isabella and Oskar will all end up in the hands of the secret police. Will all be barked at to relinquish their truths, the truth of who they are.

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PurpleProse wrote 47 days ago

I was drawn to this book because obviously it was top rated, but also because of the intriguing storyline. As a painter myself I loved the opening chapter, I know just how Isabella feels, being betrayed by the medium. And then Florence - such a wonderful place. I thought the switch to Freddie and the bombers worked extremely well and brought there experience vividly to life. Look forward to reading more, although I am worried for Isabella (and Florence) with those bombs about to drop! Bookshelved. Poppy, The Day Will Come

katjon wrote 58 days ago

Hi Violet - I really like the way the story is developing. Here are my thoughts on the last chapters posted here:

chapter 9

Freddie’s now the Enemy and will presumably be deported or imprisoned if he doesn’t leave. I thought perhaps he would feel more intimidated by the crowds and the excitement being whipped up among people around him?

But I love the way he suddenly feels the menace in the carvings, grilles etc, evoking previous violent events in the city.

The problems they have making love have obviously caused a lot of tension between Isabella and Freddie. Freddie seems confused about his sexual feelings. Does he really find Isabella unattractive or is it fear of failure that makes him lose his erection? He's attracted to Davy but then he also finds his body reacting to Kate. But even his feelings for Kate are not straightforward and he doesn’t relish doing sexual things to her and resents her for turning him on.

I love the description of the moon like a hooded face staring in at the window and later ‘the ghosted glaze of moonlight on the layers of cloud below.’
You give a very vivid description of the bombing of Berlin and end with the chilling note about how Freddie fears he will be treated if he’s shot down.
I’d love to read more.

pattimari wrote 70 days ago

I rate this book as a five star book. It held my interest, it had a flow that walked right along with my mind as I read each word. I would recommend it to all those who enjoy a good well written book.
Pattimari Cacciolfi

katjon wrote 75 days ago

Hi Violet - here are m thoughts on the next couple of chapters.
Chapter 6
By 1937 we’re seeing Isabella as the painter rather than the muse. I worry about Oskar the German Jew. I hope he will get out of Florence before it’s too late. I love the way he ’turns daily life into choreography.’
I like the way Isabella is bold enough to see things differently. I love ‘illusions too are part of our reality.’
I want to find out who really sabotaged the painting and why.
Chapter 7
The characters are developing more and more. They are real, rounded, living, breathing people. The bathing scene is quite idyllic but there’s the underlying tension for the reader of knowing things won't stay that way for long.
You capture the mood of the times really well in the conversation about people not being able to say what they think and having to assume everyone’s a Party member.
Chapter 8
I love the description of running through the rain in Venice. You also set up the awkwardness between them really well, with the unacknowledged physical problem. Nice line to end on: ‘We can’t be drunk all the time.’
I’m so enjoying this and look forward to reading more soon.

dlfowlernovels wrote 77 days ago

By focusing on the ebb and flow of human relationships against a backdrop of war, you make history come alive. It becomes personal. Best of luck at the Editor's Desk.

Eddexx wrote 79 days ago

Hi Violet,
I had written about three hundred words in praise of 'Paint' but Google lost it so I'm writing some of it again! Firstly I think it is the best piece of work I have read in all my time on Autholony. Isabella's relationship with Freddie is cleverly crafted (including a sensitively handled problem with his erectile dysfunction!). Where you could risked 'purple prose' and cliches in fact your descriptions of Florence and the terror of bombing raids really bring colour to the story. You have done your research! Many of the characters from Maestro, Cyril, Reg to Oskar seem like real characters and not just literary inventions. In my view Paint is simply brilliant. One or two proof reading queries: Chapter 10 -"I don't have to use your name, "she says...(quotation marks inverted) and "Making it a painful She makes him think" should there be something after 'painful'. Well done though!
Ed Marriott

katjon wrote 80 days ago

I've read the first five chapters now and am loving it. It's a very interesting situation, having Isabella experience being both painter and muse. I like the scenes with Freddie and the underlying tension with the Maestro. Look forward to reading more soon!

Eddexx wrote 81 days ago

Enjoying Paint so far. Well sculpted, clever elements of description and mood.
I am backing the book and giving it 5 stars.
Ed Marriott 'Sucker Punch'.

CeriBeynon wrote 81 days ago

Paint is a really intriguing book. Added to my watchlist.

Tina Webb wrote 85 days ago

You've chosen a setting that not only establishes mood, suspense and conflict but also instantly gives a reader an urgent desire to see a victory come from a destruction that history will never forget. After reading your perfect book description I instantly put this book on my watchlist. No wonder this book is currently ranked 3rd. I'm going to have to buy this book one day.

katjon wrote 86 days ago

I really enjoyed the opening chapters to this story. You have come up with a great premise, with a man being ordered to bomb the city in which his wife lives. You've also picked a beautiful city at a very frightening time in its history. The characters are interesting and you do a great job building up the tension. I will certainly read on. I'm new to this site and would love it if you could take a look at my story The Lie if/when you get a chance.

dlfowlernovels wrote 87 days ago

I finished chapter 5. Your characterization is outstanding. Isabella, Maestro and Fabio all come alive in chapters 3-5. Freddie and his crew are well drawn also in chapter 2. The personal dramas set against the tension of war and the fascist regime (especially Mussolini's building program) are very effective. I even love the way you use sentence fragments to move us closer inside Isabella's head. I'll keep it on the shelf until you make ED - gave it six stars! Can't wait to read the rest.

dlfowlernovels wrote 90 days ago

Excellent storytelling. You patiently introduce us to each character in ways that allow us to embrace them on a human level, and the artful use of present tense draws us even closer. Your use of language is spellbinding.

Radar1979 wrote 102 days ago

I love the plot, the genre, and the style. The choice of the "Italian Theatre" is good one in my opinion. I can both feel and see the locations and people being described.

Sophia Tyson wrote 102 days ago

Congratulations to making it to the ED! Good luck!

Charun wrote 104 days ago

Captivating story! Best of luck at the Editor's Desk.

pattimari wrote 107 days ago

Chapter one - ah, this chapter did indeed lead me right into your book and I plan on reading more chapters as days pass.
Your visualization with the paint brush and painting made me want to dip right into my own oil painting. You describe it so well and give the character statement that she indeed loves to paint from natures things and what she sees.
Great beginning. I enjoyed the vision of this chapter and with it you gave sounds, taste and smells to me as a reader and this is very good.

GCleare wrote 109 days ago

You are so expert with these historical adventure books, this is another great one! Enjoyed what I read very much. Hope you stay toward the top this month. x Gail

Margaret Holly wrote 111 days ago

Hello again Violet,

I've just re-read chapter 3 because it inspired me so much the first time I read it. I'm trying to write about an incident during the first bombing raid on London and you make me feel as if I were there seeing it for myself, so now I can understand the background against which my own characters are operating.
I've finally found the courage (and the skill) to upload the first few chapters of my own book and if you've got the time to spare to read a bit of it I would appreciate any advise you can give on how I might improve it. I'm very much a novice writer I'm afraid.
Best wishes,

Kestrelraptorial wrote 111 days ago

What a vivid and picturesque opening chapter! And to end it with the bombers . . . the war . . . coming ever closer, like a cold slap of reality. You have a real talent for describing the sights, sounds, and feel of humans in war and in passion. I loved the line in chapter three about the air raid, "it looks like a black spell has been cast over the city". I liked that the story was told from both the city and the bombers' perspective(s). I felt the fear of both sides, and the exhilaration. In the last chapter, I was thinking it must be one of the scariest moments imagineable for the pilots to find themselves illuminated by the searchlights. I liked following Isabella as well, though I was hoping to find a clue as to why she was suspected to have ruined the Last Supper painting. Your pitch ends with "Freddie, Isabella, and Oskar will all end up in the hands of the secret police". I wish the story extended to them being caught, and how they respond. Do tell me if/when you add those chapters, okay?

Raymond Crane wrote 112 days ago

As a perhaps secondary comment, I don't know if I've commented before, I would just add that my wife who is one of the most prominent expressionist painters in the Australia of today, paints what she sees with her heart, as though her heart was holding the brush - therefore I would ask you to include in your pitch that your painter character paints what she 'sees with her heart', even if it isn't true, after all there is such a thing as artistic justice.
Yours with respect R

Izzy_Indigo wrote 120 days ago

Hi Violet,

I think you're a talented writer, and knowing what it takes to craft the prose you do, I hope you welcome some small suggestions I had from reading your pitch and first chapter.

Long Pitch
* * * * *
I think this is weakest part of your writing, almost like it hasn't received as much care and attention? Reading it I felt like you were doing a lot of telling, rather than evoking the resonance of your story as the rest of your writing does.

Sentences and clauses like
>> Today he will have to drop his load of bombs on the city where his wife lives
>> He is a German Jew. Living in Paris when war broke out.
>> where it is dangerous to trust anyone with the truth, where no one is allowed to know what the truth is.
>> Will all be barked at to relinquish their truths

All jarred me to be honest, and didn't quite sit right. Given the sentences you have crafted later, I think you could rework these to be much more evocative.

First Chapter
* * * * *
I really have very little to offer here because it is near perfection, your sentences exquisite. Too many favourite ones to pick from ;o)

My only suggestion are:

Maybe in the eight paragraph starting with she lays down a brushstroke you are repeating some ground with your beautiful colour descriptions from the earlier paragraphs (I think of the line: it is in subtlety that a master truly shows themself). I think it is great you describe the smell of the canvas, but perhaps you could further flesh out the smell and touch and sound of painting for your protagonist, fully evoking all the senses.

My only other comment is the sentence She breathes him in, breathes him out, onto the canvas. When reading this it just felt it would be stronger if it was a shorter fragment without the onto the canvas like She breathes him, she breathes him out.

Hope this helpful, brilliant writing!

zima wrote 120 days ago

What you do so well here is lift the characters off the page. Isabella is quickly a vivid presence and as such provides insights. I think that’s what all good writing does – gives us insights. I’m also impressed by your versatility. You give us a thoroughly convincing portrait of an artist at work and then an equally convincing portrait of a man at war. First two chapters are excellent.

Kaychristina wrote 122 days ago

Violet, again you have something extraordinary, exquisite - and deliver it amid the brutality of war.

Your prose is rhythmic, effortlessly so, and mesmerizing. Yet you are able to jolt a reader at exactly the right time. You are every bit an artist with words as your Isabella is with her paints - and your knowledge of those paints goes without saying. Isabella even uses my own favourite ultramarine (!) I love how she goes against the Maestro's strict rules of those four colours, and the other students' reactions (ch.6). The oily Fabio might well be pleased at this defiance... (I'm still reading!)

I made a few notes as I read... so I'll paste them in here --

Ch.1 -- As I said, mesmerizing. You know what it is to be an artist. And you slap us when we're in reverie.

Ch.2 -- The reality of the war, and we meet Freddie and co.
Cyril, others, and Reg his flight engineer.
Here's a thought your might consider -- Would Cyril, being the Navigator - and therefore a senior officer, who has stuck to him like glue, through thick and thin, not ask the same questions as Reg? Or at least, stay silent upon hearing the target, just throwing a look? I know Cyril chose Freddie, as it were, so perhaps he's not as close as the chosen Reg, but I thought, surely he would know. If so, perhaps there could be a tag to his line about the ten bob - said with a trifle too much cheer, or something?

Freddie's thoughts on Dave... the game of chess. I have a few thoughts on this... but I'll message you about those. It's a great analogy - and very touching.

Same for Reg - that he just liked the look of him - his longish dark hair, hands.....As we know Freddie studied art. I wonder if it might help to add something there - his likeness to e.g. the Laughing Cavalier, some such portrait.
I think the whole chapter is incredibly real, your knowledge of these operations, even how the aircraft work, is admirable, so easily conveyed. Right down to each man's individual ritual before a sortie.

Above all, Freddie's inner strength as an officer, no quarter given when it comes to duty. Even if he does *make a visual show of his relinquishing of all responsibility for what happens* by lightening his hold on the controls, giving over to Spike. What must be such inner turmoil, you have conveyed so very well.
I love the smooth transition that follows Isabella back to her past, her meeting with the master, how it all came to be.

The characterizations for the Maestro, Fabio, Oskar and the students, all vivid. And Isabella's growing maturity, wanton thoughts even, a delight to behold. And oh, good Lord, what has happened to the Maestro's painting?

I am up to 7 for the moment, and invested in these people. I can also see what they will have to endure, what Isabella is going to have to do for the SS - or will she? And fear what will become of her, and of Freddie, and of Oskar, too.

This is truly a work of art, Violet.

From Kay with love to a very gifted writer.

Margaret Holly wrote 123 days ago

I'm new to the site and read this last week. I thought it was great but hadn't worked out enough about using the site to post a comment. However, I'm glad to see it's made the top rated books. It certainly deserves it and it will end up on my bookshelf when I've swotted up on how that works.

I particularly liked your first chapter and the artist's uncertainty about the quality of her own work. It's so evocative of her mental state and sums up exactly how I feel about my own endeavours in the literary field. I haven't found the courage to go live yet but maybe I'll get there.

In the meantime - more of this excellent book please!

Best wishes,


soutexmex wrote 126 days ago

A little bump to help ya out for January's ranking. Good luck. Cheers! JC

bigmouth wrote 138 days ago

I read a couple of chapters and found it refreshingly well-written and thought I'd ask Rachel to call it in but then I discover that another of your books has just made the editor's desk, am I right? I look forward to reading that.

Slings 'n' Arrows wrote 138 days ago

I cannot understand why this exquisite book is still languishing outside of the top five. It is a joy to read, vibrantly immersing every one of the senses in every scene. If they don't go for this then the rest of us might as well give up. Backed with pleasure.

Neville wrote 182 days ago

By Violet Wells.

Read the book and backed it a while back, still remember it very well.
Such is the impact upon the reader.
This is good—very good in fact.
I was able to share in the fear that stalked the pilots and crew as they went through their rituals before takeoff.
You give a good account of the tension amongst the crews as they prepare for what could be there last mission—the rituals need to be correct to give them any chance of returning.
Florence, a beautiful place as we all know, is the next mission and it raises problems for Freddie.
His home and wife are still there, not far from the bombing zone…The tension is heightened.
I love the way you have brought out the inner feelings of Isabella as she puts paint to canvass, the movement of the pallet knife, the mixing of rich colors, her thoughts on the sitter.
It takes an artist to be able to write in this way—it’s all there as you put pen to paper.
I’ll say no more, the book is excellent and will make its mark on the reading public.
I’ve had six stars against it ever since reading it.
Backed again!

Best wishes,


One Off, Sir!
The Secrets of the Forest (Series)-Cosmos 501.
The Secrets of the Forest (Series)-The Time Zone.

sensual elle wrote 199 days ago

Another of Miss Wells' bloody good stories with a WW-II setting. The writing is bloody good and the attention to detail is amazing. Happily backed.

the morning after wrote 206 days ago

I like this even better than Cypher. Brilliant!

Poppy R. May wrote 210 days ago

I've only been able to read four chapters I'm afraid, but have to say this is one of the better written books on here. The amount of research you must have done for all the different elements you write about is impressive too. I used to paint with oils - loved it - no time now.
This isn't something I would read normally, my husband would adore it. He loves anything to do with the war. That said, even I enjoyed reading this and I usually balk at the thought of anything to do with the war these days. Try living with someone obsessed about it and you'll understand why :)
Happily backed and hope you have success with it.

Chris 1 wrote 219 days ago

This is a high standard and very literary. I like the scene in the first chapter - the idyll about to be disturbed by the outside world that comes crashing in (or is about to), the lull before the storm etc. BACKED. I'll read on.

Paul Davenport-Randell wrote 239 days ago

Exquisite prose! To say you can write is as like saying flowers bloom in the spring, that day is light and night-time dark. Every sentence is a jewel, each sparkles as bright as the last. You paint an astonishing, visual canvas of colour with the opening chapter. What is more (disagreeing with T M Robinson), I think it is a powerful opener, showing the idyll that exists before the terrible, imminent storm, and ends with just the right, and lightest, shade of foreboding. This is very much a grown-ups' novel, patently written by a grown-up; by someone who has researched their subject thoroughly - though to my mind, never delivering more detail than is necessary. The change of tone you affect when switching view-points, from female in chapter one, to male in chapter two, is pitch-perfect. The dialogue between the men is natural, believable. I love the way you describe the bomb as being 'eloquently ugly.' There is a sort of paradoxical horrific beauty in its engineered capability to cause such devastation. This is a novel whose spine deserves breaking again and again and again...

Best of luck


C.I. DeMann wrote 240 days ago

This is excellent work. It's fun to learn about both painting and bombers, side by side. Plus there's Italy to discover! I love your writing, the characters are interesting, especially their relationships to each other. I hope this climbs the charts here at authonomy, but even if it doesn't, you should publish this thing. You will have many happy readers. Good luck.

Virginia Moffatt wrote 266 days ago

Like the opening - what a set up! And nice sense of time and place. Already feeling for this characters and wanting to know what happens next.

singapore wrote 270 days ago

If only I could write like that. Makes me want to weep. Outstanding, Miss Wells. Outstanding. x

mikegilli wrote 283 days ago

hi there and thanks for en entertaining read. You have combined meticulous research and a clear narrative style with a deep and moving plot.. congratulations, must have been a huge job to write. all the best mikegili the Free

glot wrote 284 days ago

The first chapter is beautiful, almost too much so. I was pleased the second chapter is much more dramatic and down to earth (en though it involves flying!) The bomber crew was really well done and getting to know Freddie made me much more interested in Isabella. Excellent.

Billie Storm wrote 315 days ago

Gorgeous. Will back with joy.
Filling this comment out. I found your writing forensic in detail, and the painterly flow is easy to recognise, as is the 'exacting eye'. Am reminded of a butterfly, tho, pinned to by to a velvet cushion, fluttering and desperate to fly.
The detail or form is more like prosody to me, yet I know you can hold this together and it will find a shape and structure, but, by its beautifully wrought nature, pinned and captured, will probably not fly.
I flitted through your other work, and see you love to understand/analyse the workings, the guts of things, be they planes, pigment or the anatomy of painting, as though you wish to find and explore the common ground between them.
Enjoyed very much the exacting eye, but can see that it could snarl up for some, as mention in other comments. I'd love to know more about you - artist, poet - your profile doesn't give anything away, because you possess a remarkable gift.
Thank you very much.


Geowonderland wrote 323 days ago

I was looking forward to read your book, since I love historical fiction. I'm sorry to say that I'd put this book away pretty fast. For me, the descriptions are too detail and sometimes dialogue goes on for too long. I do not have patience for this kind of writing.
Best wishes,

M W Hastings wrote 333 days ago

Highly imaginative and original, with exquisitely detailed descriptive writing. The place and period are evoked so vividly.

timschmal wrote 334 days ago

Your use of description is excellent. You draw the reader into the characters, empathizing with their lives, they problems, their little victories. I love this story because I love flying, I love Florence, and everyone's heart is exposed. You weave and mix the war with romance in a real way. Sometimes it's the simple things, the gap between her teeth, color of her lipstick, description of the flights, flak, lights, noises, sensations. It all brings me into the story, feel a part. The bittersweet marriage, hanging in limbo, carries through as a constant string, holding it all together. Very well done.

mavis out wrote 342 days ago

First chapter is magical and stunning in its beauty. Second chapter is gripping. You've got the best of both worlds going on here. I'm going to read some more tomorrow.

Laurence Howard wrote 342 days ago

I backed your book some time ago with maximum stars. I'm very surprised you haven't reached the desk but certain that you will. I like your book and your style of writing. You write with authority and skill.
Backing again hoping friends will also take a look and be hooked as much as I was..
Very best of luck,
Laurence Howard, The Cross of Goa

the Egghead & I wrote 344 days ago

The jerkiness of the introductory sentence fragments made me fearful I wouldn't like the writing, but it's good. Now I'm fearful how the story turns out!

medleyed sounds wrote 346 days ago

Deliciously lyrical.

Matthew Wilson 101 wrote 346 days ago


Lovely writing. I felt it was slightly affected by the overuse of 'relevant' artist's phraseology in the first few paragraphs but your gift for lilting, artistic prose slowly pushed through my scepticism. The ending too is a great dramatic touch. You obviously have a gift for knowing how to balance 'writing' and action.


carol jefferies wrote 350 days ago

Hi Violet,

I very much enjoyed reading the first three chapters of your brilliant, well-written book, ' Paint.'

The opening page blew me away with the imagery it evoked in my mind; the sight of the paint, the touch of Isabella's paintbrush, the smell of the nauseating glue, and finally the disturbance of the air-raid siren signalling a bombing raid on Florence.

Chapter two introduces us to Freddie, her husband, alongside his navigator, Cyril, and he is given the news that his next bombing mission will be to drop bombs on his own home city. Hearing this, suspense starts to build.

Your good eye for detail helps paint a really authentic scene of the times. I particularly liked the way the men scraped back their chairs when the Squadron Commander came into the room to announce the news.

I liked the way Cyril chose Freddie to be a member of his crew.

The letter Freddie writes to his wife, in case he is killed, is poignant.

I know that men joking about their chances of getting killed was not uncommon in such fatalistic circumstances.

The amount of research and character development is excellent, and a lot of thought has gone into writing this book.

The description of the destruction caused by the bombing of Florence is well portrayed, especially the description of the mother that was killed.

Backed with the highest points. My only regret is I did not read it earlier.

Good luck,

Carol Jefferies
(The Witch of Fleet Street)

T M Robinson wrote 354 days ago

I only read the first chapter, which is problematic, since your story doesn't seem to start on the first chapter.
She paints in over-heated prose, but the reader learns nothing of the story and little about the character of the protagonist. If you're certain your literary prose will spellbind an agent or acquisition editor, this won't be a problem. Otherwise, you might consider bringing the story forward a bit and save the painting lesson for later.

Best of luck