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Literary Friday: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper

Friday, March 19, 2021


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today's review is for a book with a unique setting: The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper.

According to Goodreads:

A young prodigy in need of family.

A painting that shatters a woman’s peace.

And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it’s too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

About Tea Cooper:
Tea is an award winning Australian author of  historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Naturalist's DaughterThe Woman in the Green DressThe Girl in the Painting and The Cartographer's Secret. 

My Review:

I love novels about smart, dynamic women, and Elizabeth Quinn and her ward Jane Piper are both, plus they excel at mathematics and science.  Siblings Michael and Elizabeth want to pay it forward by giving bright orphan Jane a better life through education and opportunity.  Jane moves in with them when she's around ten, and they educate her and hire her to work in the family firm.  Elizabeth is a role model for Jane, and she admires Jane's intellect and strength: She is always poised and put together.  Elizabeth quickly falls apart after visiting an exhibition of Victorian curiosities and art.  She starts shaking in the gallery, and is hysterical: Jane is shaken and doesn't know how to console Elizabeth.  Once calm, Jane quickly gets Elizabeth home.  Eventually a doctor is consulted, and as was common during this era, Elizabeth was diagnosed with mid-life hysteria.  But Jane thinks it's nonsense because she believes that Elizabeth was traumatized by either the bird exhibits (because she has ornithophobia, or a fear of birds) or something else she saw at the gallery.  Elizabeth is also remembering frightening memories from her early childhood, memories she had repressed.  Eventually Jane realizes that a painting at the gallery is what caused Elizabeth's trauma, and she is determined to solve the mystery about the significance of the painting to help Jane.

This is the first time I've ever read a historical novel set in Australia during the Victorian era, and I loved it.  Tea Cooper did a super job researching several historical truths shared in the book, and one I find disturbing is child migration.  The English sent these "vagrant" children all over the world, starting as early as 1618 when children were sent to the Americas, and as late as 1967 when children were flown to Australia. If a child was over fourteen, he or she was considered an adult.  Another interesting plot point is the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria's son, Prince Alfred.  On March 12, 1868, an Irishman, Henry James O'Farrell, attempted the assassination by firing his pistol at close range.  The bullet only caused a superficial wound thanks to the prince's braces.  There are other real historical events and places in the book, and Maitland, Australia is full of history along with the Ugg Boot Factory.  I think it would be a lovely place to visit!

This book has a little bit of everything: Victorian Australian history, romance, family drama, mystery, art, suspense, and a surprisingly sweet ending.  The plot is fast-paced enough that I had a difficult time finding a stopping point to do important things, like cooking dinner.  I love discovering new writers I enjoy: Australian historical fiction is a new genre to me, and I hope to read more of Tea Cooper's books soon, probably beginning with The Cartographer's Secret.  

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Girl in the Painting from the publisher Thomas Nelson via TILC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I really can't think of any book I've read that was set in Australia, so that alone is intriguing! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  2. I like books set in Victorian times and books set in Australia, and art history so this book got my attention with your review. Isn't Tea a lovely first name?

  3. A book that's too good to put down to make dinner? Sign me up! All kidding aside the historical/ Australia angle does sound interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh, I like this one. I shall look for it at the library. Thank you!

  5. It does sound fascinating, I haven't read anything set in Australia either, but I do know some of their historical struggles, thank you for the interesting review, it sounds very intriguing!

  6. For a book to have a little of everything, especially Victorian Australian History sounds like a wonderful book for me. Thanks RJ for your review........


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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