New Book – Painting by Numbers by Sally Patricia Gardner (Pages 1 – 91)


Publishing year: 2012

This new novel is told from two perspectives, Ellie’s and Juliet’s, mother and daughter.

Ellie meets and marries Colin at the beginning of the war despite the opposition of her own mother, Minnie. Just after she learns she is pregnant, Colin is drafted into war, and when she has Juliet, she gets a telegram that Colin has been killed. Then Ellie has to get by alone and with a baby. She manages to get some money by crocheting garments, using the wool from old clothes. Before her marriage, Ellie used to work in a shop and her boss was Frank Dawlish. The man promises to give her a chance and sell her garments, but they don’t sell well. Then Frank surprises her by proposing to her, and even though Ellie is not in love with him and Frank is years older than she is, she accepts as she feels he will be good for her and Juliet. The marriage doesn’t lost long as Ellie discovers that Frank goes to Juliet’s room during the night and abuses her. So Ellie leaves him and goes to her mother.

In Juliet’s accounts we learn that her relationship with her mother is quite tricky. Since very young, Juliet has felt that she falls short as far as her mother is concerned. Ellie is very strict with Juliet, and the girl thinks she is never proud of her. When Juliet is ten, Ellie starts taking lodgers, first, a married couple, who Juliet grows very fond of. They leave when they are about to have a baby, so her mother starts taking in students, who Juliet not always has a good relationship with. Juliet is very intelligent and reads a lot, but because of the financial difficulties her mother has, she is unable to go to the secondary school she wanted, and she doesn’t even aspire to university.

One turning point is when Juliet and Ellie go to a holiday camp whose owner is a neighbour of theirs, Derek. Ellie and Derek flirt bluntly. Juliet befriends a boy called Neil, and he tells her that they could go dancing. In the dancing hall Elliet dances with Derek and Juliet is surprised to see her mum laugh so much. Juliet dances with Neil, surprising her mother. Then when everybody dances the conga, Derek is behind her, and instead of her waist, he keeps putting his hands near her chest, and when the dance begins, she makes an innocent comment about that, her mother, Neil, and Derek keep a serious countenance, and Ellie decides that they should go. I am surprised when after the incident Ellie blames Juliet and accuses her of spoiling everything. I think that was such a nasty thing to do. Juliet gets upset and storms out, and Neil offers her his sister’s bed, and she sleeps in his chalet all night. The following morning Ellie apologises and she says she loves Juliet very much, and the girl believes her, but she reckons that something has happened between them.

The next instalment about Juliet, she is sixteen years old and she works in a theatre as a assistant stage manager, and she is also an understudy. The play they are showing is Romeo and Juliet, and the girl wishes the girl playing Juliet could break a leg and she could be on stage. Juliet gets her wish when the actress gets a cold, so Julie plays her part, and she gets good reviews. However, the actress is well enough the following day, so her excitement is short-lived. That night after the play, a man is waiting for her. He introduces himself as Daniel, and he says that he found her performance the night before wonderful. They go for a coffee and in the café some man approach them and calls Nicholas names because he is a German.

The following day Nicholas goes to the theatre and he tells her his story. He is a German Jew, and almost all his family were killed in Kristalnacht. Then his mother and he were sent to a concentration camp in Dachau. The circumstances were terrible, and just before the Allies got to rescue them, his mother died of typhus. The man who rescued Nicholas was British and got him to England, where he has lived ever since. After Nicholas’s account Juliet is sobbing, and then without another word they kiss. I imagine that this relationship won’t be easy for her. Ellie already warned her that this man was a German, and Germans weren’t welcomed in England. So I think Juliet’s decision to be with Daniel is going to ruffle some feathers, and I imagine it will make her relationship with Ellie even more difficult.



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