Book Review: Margaret Sisu’s The Nude

Author Margaret Sisu’s lean yet bold novel, begins with Gwen Mason, an avid art buyer, attempting to purchase a painting by an up and coming Miami artist. The painting, titled “The Champion”, is the recent work of Adam Straker, owner of Gaya Art Collective, a gallery where he showcases his work. From their very first meeting, it is “intrigue at first sight”. Gwen is immediately infatuated with Adam’s boy next door looks, even though he is several years older.

At first glance, it appears that they are “a match made in heaven.” Adam is an unattached painter who has traveled all round the world perfecting his craft. Gwen is an avid collector of art and exhibits the works of various artists at her own studio with the help of Sherrie, her feisty assistant. Gwen’s life is seemingly uneventful. She shares a condo with her mother, who has recently entered the dating scene. Gwen’s father, once a famous painter, left when she was very young.

Adam and Gwen, inevitably begin a relationship. All is well until Gwen begins to take an interest in a nude painting hidden in Adam’s apartment. Adam refuses to sell or discuss the painting and becomes uneasy whenever she brings it up. Also, she continues to have unsettling memories about her father’s departure, which was rather abrupt. Against Adam’s wishes, the painting is revealed to the public who view it as a modern masterpiece.

The national attention causes both of their careers to accelerate unexpectedly until suddenly they find themselves at the center of the high-end art world. Gwen starts to realize that there is a bizarre connection between the painting, her relationship with Adam and her father’s departure. As the story progresses, a plethora of secrets, lies and cover-ups are revealed in a way no reader could ever see coming. 

The Nude is a brief demonstration of the intense catharsis that follows the unleashing of secrets, no matter how horrible they may be. It is a story of how strong the bonds of love and family can be, in the face of lies and attempts to hide the truth. Although some chapters in Sisu’s novel are ambiguous, she has a unique sense of pacing and creates dialogue that is compelling and rhythmic. Her book is moderately esoteric, the hallmark of all good writing. She keeps her readers guessing until the very end.

by Rebecca Nichloson