Excerpt from Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Portrait of an Unknown Woman

A Novel

by Vanora Bennett

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I looked sideways at the woman who’d brought the dying boy to me. There were tears coming silent and unbidden down her grey cheeks. I knew her to be in grief, but something about her rapturous expression suggested these were tears of joy. ‘So shalt thou not despair,’ Davy went on, ‘but shall feel God as a kind and a merciful father; and his spirit shall dwell in thee, and shall be strong in thee, and the promise shall be given thee at the last.’

Now the little old man stepped forward, his fear of me forgotten, his face lit up with happiness. ‘When I began to smell the word of God,’ he began modestly, and the group turned towards him with a drawing-in of breath, ‘it so exhilarated my heart – which before was wounded with the guilt of my sins until I was almost in despair – that immediately I felt a marvellous comfort and quietness, so much so that my bruised bones leapt for joy.

‘The churchmen would say I’ve lost my faith. But I say this. Scripture has become more delicious to me than honey or the honeycomb, because in it I learn that all my torments, all my fasting, all my vigils, all the redemption of masses and pardons, being done without trust in Christ, who alone can save his people from their sins, these, I say, I learned to be nothing but a headlong rush away from the truth.’ There were more quiet sobs of relief, and more wet cheeks, as he stepped up to kiss the book in Davy’s hand.

Beyond a bit of banter in the street while I was buying something from a street trader, or a chat with one of the maids at home, I’d never have talked to people like these in the usual run of my life. Watching their faces light up with exaltation now, I realised I probably hadn’t even thought of them as knowing how to talk other than in the cheeky chat of traders. Except when I was treating their wounds and ailments, that was; when I remembered that if you pricked the poor they bled just like the next man. But I certainly hadn’t expected this depth of emotion, this passion for truth. I felt humbled by it.

They knew when to stop. When the only candle had burned down to its mark, they wrapped the books up and hid them behind the logs again and filed out, as quiet as they’d come, into the courtyard and off in their different directions. ‘Will you take me home, Davy?’ I asked, sitting on my bench, quiet with my impressions.

‘I haven’t told you answers to the questions you asked,’ he said, as we slipped out into the alley. ‘Showing you this was the best I could do.’

I nodded. ‘It was a good answer,’ I said, at peace with his new sane self now.

‘You go up to the top, and left and left again into Walbrook. Best I don’t go with you,’ he said. He shouldered his bag. ‘I’ve got business to do. Unicorn’s horn business.’ And he winked at me, then grinned crazily and danced off down the dirty little street, every inch the cheerful madman again.

Excerpted from Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett, Copyright © 2007 by Vanora Bennett. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!