Despite having studied the Renaissance as part of my degree, I knew almost nothing about Francesco Bassano, so when I was asked by the team at Bookollective if I would like to be part of the launch celebrations for Julia Grigg’s The Eyes That Look I jumped at the chance.
Published by Unicorn on 1st October 2018, The Eyes That Look is available for purchase here.
The Eyes That Look
We may have eyes that look – but how clearly do we see?
This compelling novel of art and adventure, Julia Grigg’s debut, is set in the feverish creativity of mid-sixteenth century Italy.
Francesco Bassano wants to find out how and why an extraordinary painting was made; the story traces his quest to discover the secrets of the portrait’s past. Francesco’s journey, his coming-of-age, takes him and his questions to Venice, Verona, Maser and Florence. Encountering the High Renaissance’s masters Titian, Veronese and Vasari in the very act of creating and recording the era’s stupendous art and architecture, he is witness to astonishing achievements. Enthralled, he learns of the determination needed for innovation and the sacrifices demanded of an artist if cherished ambition is to become reality.
Little by little he unravels what lies behind the painting, gaining new understanding of love, truth and beauty, and of loyalty, devotion and the unbreakable bond between a master and his dogs. However, in delving deeper, the past’s dark side reveals itself: cruelty, inhumanity and human frailty – and Francesco cannot avoid the experience of bitter betrayal.
A spirited, entertaining fiction drawing on historical facts, The Eyes that Look is multi-sensual in its storytelling, inviting readers to revel in the unrivalled artistic riches of the Italian Renaissance.
My Review of The Eyes That Look
A trip to Venice with his uncle will leave Francesco Bassano questioning many aspects of his life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up The Eyes That Look, but I had no idea that I was in for such a feast for the senses. Julia Grigg captures the era perfectly. The quality of detail, particularly of colour, makes The Eyes That Look a vivid and vibrant book. I truly felt myself transported to sixteenth century Italy. I thought using a painting as an inspiration for the narrative was inspired and I am filled with admiration for Julia Grigg’s blending of fact and fiction into what is a compelling and interesting read, beautifully crafted and meticulously researched. The language is flowing and poetic but never over elaborate so that reading The Eyes That Look feels like a high quality experience.
The story of Francesco Bassano’s uncovering of his father’s painting of the dogs is fascinating in itself, but what I enjoyed most was the way in which Francesco himself was created. He’s multi-layered, by no means perfect and all the more human as a result. I was surprised by how emotionally invested I became in his own journey of self-discovery and I think it is the first person approach that creates this effect. He experiences so many emotions that in understanding him I simultaneously, came to understand what life must have been like for so many in his position at such an influential period. Julia Grigg has the knack of bringing time, place, action and character to life so that Francesco is the embodiment of the era without being dry or a pastiche.
I loved the message that what we are looking for might be closer than we first imagine too. The Eyes That Look works on so many levels. It can be enjoyed as a literary, artistic and historically accurate presentation of real times and people, but equally it can be enjoyed as an entertaining and dynamic narrative. I really enjoyed it.
About Julia Grigg
As a journalist, Julia Grigg has written on fashion, food, travel and the arts, subjects in which she retains an abiding interest. Recruited as a writer by UNICEF, she worked for many years as an advocate for children’s issues in some of the world’s most demanding and complex countries.
The Eyes that Look was begun while studying for the Bath Spa University Masters course in Creative Writing. The research, in Italian archives, galleries and churches, allowed her to indulge a lifelong passion for the Renaissance.
Julia is working on her second novel, also set in mid-1500s Venice and Florence, and involving some of the same cast of characters as The Eyes that Look.
Dogs are another passion; she and her husband share their home with a pair of black and tan dachshunds.