"Francis Cornish was always good at keeping secrets. From the well-hidden family secret of his childhood to his mysterious encounters with a small-town embalmer, a master art restorer, a Bavarian countess, and various masters of espionage, the events in Francis's life were not always what they seemed."
A kind of prequel to 'The Rebel Angels', but featuring a framing sequence that takes place after the events of that novel, this second book of the Cornish Trilogy is a stand alone story. This biography is, in some respects, the story of one man's relationship with Art. At the same time, it is a reflection of the history of 20th century Canada, as Francis grows from his small town Ontario roots with its vestiges of British imperialism, is exposed to cosmopolitan Europe and returns to Canada as an excentric arbiter of what constitutes good taste in homegrown art. It might sound a little boring, but it's really just the opposite.
This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1986.
I read this a couple of years ago and plan to read it again to brush up before reading The Lyre of Orpheus within the next month or so (it will be Book #10).