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BookBrowse Reviews The Prize by Jill Bialosky

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The Prize

by Jill Bialosky

The Prize by Jill Bialosky X
The Prize by Jill Bialosky
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2015, 325 pages
    Aug 2016, 325 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book



The Prize is a meaningful exploration of marriage even if it occasionally lacks narrative urgency.

Edward Darby believes he is a happily married husband and father of one. He is a successful New York art dealer who commutes to Manhattan from Connecticut and travels to Europe regularly. With his business partner, Mary, Edward owns a successful art gallery and has a stable of artists whose work he represents around the world. But on a business trip to Berlin, Edward re-connects with a sculptor, Julia Rosenthal, and finds himself sharing a secret about his past with her – a secret that he has never been able to tell his wife.

Moving elegantly between Edward's past and present, Bialosky explores his marriage and his career, both of which, in the present day story, are approaching a state of crisis. Edward is drawn to Julia and she to him. He begins to realize that he and his wife live very separately. Their daughter is their shared concern but she is a teenager and increasingly independent. At work, Edward faces the dual threat of a new up-and-coming art dealer, Alex Savan, and the volatility of Agnes Murray, the most successful artist Edward represents. Her post 9/11 paintings have been the making of Edward's business, but her next exhibition might equally spell disaster. In addition, Agnes is married to another famous New York artist, making them a demanding celebrity couple with high expectations of everyone around them.

As a portrait of middle-aged vulnerability and weakness, this is a rich story with a believable, complex central character. Edward might choose the worst imaginable moment to reveal the secret from his past to his wife, Holly, but he remains a sympathetic character, even when his failings are most obvious. The marriage between the two celebrity artists is also intriguing, with suggestions of competition and manipulation between the pair.

The Prize is a moving, well-crafted novel but at times the drama lacks urgency. Bialosky has a penchant for mirroring her character's interior struggles or disappointments in descriptive passages that slow the narrative. The dust jacket for the novel may also have readers expecting a more highly charged novel than this turns out to be. The book is called The Prize, but the art award in question, advertised as a pivotal plot point, only becomes important very late in the story. The real meat of this novel is the story of Edward's marriage.

Readers looking for shocking revelations or explosive twists may be disappointed but the conclusion of The Prize stills satisfies.

Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in November 2015, and has been updated for the September 2016 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Art Inspired by 9/11

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