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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.