Tiepolo Blue (Hardback)James Cahill (author)
An encounter with an anarchic young artist changes the life of a revered Cambridge art historian – intellectually powerful but inexperienced in life and love – in this alluring and profoundly moving bildungsroman set against the backdrop of 1990s London.
Ben turns and grins ironically. 'When you stopped just now and looked at the sky, you weren't measuring it. You weren't thinking about classical proportion. You were feeling something.'
Cambridge, 1994. Professor Don Lamb is a revered art historian at the height of his powers, consumed by the book he is writing about the skies of the Venetian master Tiepolo. However, his academic brilliance belies a deep inexperience of life and love.
When an explosive piece of contemporary art is installed on the lawn of his college, it sets in motion Don's abrupt departure from Cambridge to take up a role at a south London museum. There he befriends Ben, a young artist who draws him into the anarchic 1990s British art scene and the nightlife of Soho.
Over the course of one long, hot summer, Don glimpses a liberating new existence. But his epiphany is also a moment of self-reckoning, as his oldest friendship - and his own unexamined past - are revealed to him in a devastating new light. As Don's life unravels, he suffers a fall from grace that that shatters his world into pieces.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 466 g
Dimensions: 222 x 144 x 36 mm
This divine debut from art critic and academic James Cahill is the smart, sexy read you need in 2022. Expect to see it on prize lists as well as Instagram feeds. The novel's protagonist is Professor Don Lamb, a precocious but prematurely stuffy art historian and Cambridge don, who likes measuring the skies in the paintings of Venetian master Tiepolo. Lamb takes preternatural offence when a Tracey Emin-esque bed sculpture is installed outside his college lodgings, and departs to London in a sulk for a new museum gig. There awaits a new kind of awakening - and it's not just because the YBAs are taking off. Not only an addictive pageturner, Cahill's book taps into the tensions and suspicions between generations that feels incredibly relevant for our testy times. - Evening Standard
Bringing together the Italian masters and the Young British Artists, this is a debut that looks at art, power, academia, and the potential of the urban setting at the end of the 20th century. - Dazed.com
The story of Tiepolo Blue and its people have invaded my dreams...something in the way Cahill puts the reader in Don Lamb's shoes does (or has done in my case) extraordinary things. I blushed and howled warnings and wanted to slap, cajole, hug, disown, disavow and walk away from him. His life will look so squalid and pathetic from the outside, but Cahill takes us inside and we somehow respect and love him. This is the best novel I have read for ages. It is so beautifully written, not a false note in any sentence. Cahill's presentation of the agonising clash of aesthetics, of culture, of generations... it's just masterly. Don's disintegration is painful to read, but it all grips you like a thriller. My heart was constantly in my throat as I read... There is so much to enjoy, to contemplate, to wonder at, and to be lost in. - Stephen Fry
The spirit of E.M. Forster is alive and well in James Cahill. The same palpating of damaged moral tissue, the same psychological canniness, the same gently invoked erudition, the same exactitude and eloquence - except Cahill is able to explore forbidden themes that Forster feared to touch on except posthumously - Edmund White
This is a novel full of suspense and surprise. It made me laugh and brought back memories of a time in my own life. I missed the characters as soon as I'd finished. - Sarah Lucas
I travelled on the exquisite vessel of James Cahill's prose, unable to disembark. The journey is sensual, treacherous and elegiac. The final landing, breath-taking. - Maggi Hambling
Wow. It is magnificent. Simply magnificent...Tiepolo Blue really has blown me away: the gorgeous phrase-making; the sure-footed pacing; the (re-)immersion in a world I know, or knew, in a way that is both hard-edged with historical detail and almost hallucinatory...The last debut novel I read that had this much talent buzzing around inside it was Alan Hollinghurst's The Swimming-Pool Library. - Robert Douglas - Fairhurst
Imagine if Hollinghurst and Murdoch collaborated on a witty update of Death in Venice and you'll see the appeal of James Cahill's assured debut. - Patrick Gale
James Cahill's first novel, drawn from close observation, tells a gripping tale of the worlds of traditional academia and art history pitted against those of contemporary art, each failing horribly to understand the other. As a result all becomes infused with satirical comedy and ghastly tragedy. - Norman Rosenthal, Curator of the ‘Sensation’ exhibition in 1997; former Exhibitions Secretary at the Royal Academy
An absorbing coming-of-age story. - The Art Newspaper
The standout [recent novel about art] is James Cahill's Tiepolo Blue...Interrogating beauty and meaning in art, Tiepolo Blue rewards rereading. Pointing to masked, tricksy identities, clues glitter gem-like amid hallucinatory prose...a stylish tale of love and long-game revenge. - Royal Academy Magazine
The worlds of art, academia and queerness collide in James Cahill's debut book. - i-D
[An] arresting debut novel . . . a masterly attention to (especially visual) detail and an irresistibly propulsive, almost swaggering style . . . Cahill is by no means a polemical author, and the novel is all the better for it. Any authorial commentary is barely detectable above the crowd of vivid characters with which Cahill has populated his novel, for Tiepolo Blue is, at its heart, an astute character study. - Literary Review
Evocative and accurate... meticulous and atmospheric... delicious unease and pervasive threat give this assured first novel great singularity and a kind of gothic edge... an electric new novel written by an author skilled in the evocation of vertiginous, heightened emotion' - Michael Donkor, Guardian
One of the standout debut novels is James Cahill's Tiepolo Blue, a coming-of-age tale set in London in the 1990s that deftly explores what it is like to suffer a very public fall from grace - Independent
What starts off as a campus novel soon shades into something weirder and much more mesmerizing... The plot is propulsive, though the crafted ambience of unease simultaneously destabilizes the reader at every turn. The prose is fluid and precise but the tone equivocal, bathos merging into pathos, tragedy into farce and back again... It's a measure of Cahill's sleight of hand that he manages to inject his plot with such page-turning momentum. - Lucasta Miller, TLS
Art, academia and abject self-denial combine in this startlingly impressive, 1990s-set debut...A heavily perfumed, sexually tender, psychologically acute novel... as full of light and colour as Tiepolo's incandescent skies. - Daily Mail
[A] simmering debut novel - Esquire.com
With touches of Alan Hollinghurst, the musings of the book's protagonist on the radical power of art to act as a catalyst for personal change make it an exhilarating, erudite read. - Vogue.com
A novel that combines formal elegance with gripping storytelling...wildly enjoyable...The combination of arty milieu and sexual stirrings may evoke Alan Hollinghurst, but Iris Murdoch is a more obvious point of comparison...Snobbish and incompetent, Don may be difficult to like, but his painful awakening is delicately rendered. - Financial Times
I love the punctured idealism, contained savagery and ever-lurking farce of campus novels, and there are some delicious new additions to the genre - perfect antidotes for the cold. James Cahill's Tiepolo Blue tells the tale of a fusty ferociously fusty art historian whose academic career is upended by a ferociously unbeautiful sculpture. - TLS
[An] old-fashioned ambitious novel about the wonders of art and the depths of the human heart, full of people and ideas - The Times
I just devoured Tiepolo Blue, I could not put it down. The longing, the beauty, the detail, the complexity, the art, the intellect and the emotion . . . What a triumph! - Paul Kindersley
Already a compelling psychosexual story about beauty, desire and art, Tiepolo Blue is all the more interesting because it hits notes of such strangeness - Lucy Scholes, Fiction Books of the Year, Prospect
Tiepolo Blue is about a buttoned-up art historian in Cambridge in 1994 who messes up and gets a job managing a London gallery just as the Young British Artists enter their glory. One of them initiates his unbuttoning which is dizzying and exciting and unsettling, and beautifully told - Rev Richard Coles, Big writers on their best reads of 2022, Daily Mail
Most giddying are the passages that evoke the slow-mo slide of Don's professional collapse . . . I shivered with awful delight - Alex Diggins, Critic
You may also be interested in...
“A transfixing writing style”
I cannot think why I chose Tiepolo Blue from a selection mailshot from NetGalley unless it was because I completely misread the book's description. However, I found the writing style immediately transfixing so I... More
“Art historian’s downfall”
This novel is slow in getting started, although it does provide the background setting to the story. A Cambridge art historian has been too honest and foreceful in his views of a recently installed modernistic... More
“art scholars might enjoy it”
Not for me I'm afraid, the author is obviously a very knowledgeable academic and seems to delight in letting the reader know this on every occasion. I'm sure other art scholars will enjoy it, but I found it... More
Please sign in to write a review
Would you like to proceed to the App store to download the Waterstones App?