Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Stll Life with Bread Crumbs
Still Life with Bread Crumbs

by
Anna Quindlen

Rating:
3 book marks

Rebecca Winter is a sixty-year-old photographer and her career is waning. Years earlier, her photograph entitled, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, made her famous and became a symbol of feminist thought. Now there are fewer royalty checks and finances are tight. She has a long list of hassles and expenses, including an ex-husband, an expensive apartment, and a mother with dementia. Hoping to sort it all out, she’s sub-let her Manhattan apartment and rented a cottage upstate.

What follows is a fairly predictable story about a woman who struggles with rustic living, mingles with small-town personalities and, of course, meets a manly man. All signs point to romance when Jim Bates, the local roofer, takes care of a raccoon in Rebecca’s attic. And when Rebecca discovers some mysterious crosses in the woods, she grabs her camera and starts shooting, hoping she can revamp her career. Plot lines ultimately converge with the expected conflicts, misunderstandings and crises and the story finishes with a neat, but unsurprising wrap-up.

Besides the formulaic structure, I had a hard time relating to the characters in this book. They seemed flat and stereotypical, which kept me from knowing and liking them. The one interesting part of the book, however, is the author’s discussion of art and talent. Rebecca’s believes her success with Still Life was accidental. She took the picture before she even thought about it, yet it was perfect. Quindlen aptly describes Rebecca’s situation: “Talking about art requires artists to sound purposeful and sure of themselves, but she’d never felt that way. Over the years, she’d made up a lot of reasons because people didn’t seem to like the arbitrariness of the reality.” I think this is very true about all creativity and I enjoyed thinking about how talent and spontaneity seem to go hand-in-hand.

But in the end, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a casual read, with a simple plot and uncomplicated characters. I haven’t read anything else by Quindlen, but I’m wondering if some of her other books are better than this one. I’m willing to give another a try. Any suggestions?

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4 thoughts on “Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

  1. I have read One True Thing. I’ve read all of her books. I tend to group One True Thing, Every Last One and Black and Blue together. They are all fantastic stories, but very sad and hard to get through, at least for me. As you know, I’m a happy ending addict and these books deal with cancer, suicide and domestic violence respectively.

    It’s interesting to note that Quindlen shines in her non-fiction. I personally love her fiction too, but as you mentioned in your review, she does keep the reader at a distance with her characters. She tackles some pretty tough issues, but never really lets you in all the way. That hold back may be why I’m drawn to her. So different than my blubbering writing style. Ha 🙂
    Rise and Shine is one of her lesser known books, but I liked that one too.

    1. I think I am going to enjoy Good Dog. I was disappointed that I didn’t like Still Life very much and my book club had similar comments. I’m thinking maybe Still Life isn’t a good example of her talent. Thanks for commenting!

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