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Tiepolo Blue: 'The smart, sexy read you need in 2022’ Evening Standard Hardcover – 9 Jun. 2022

4.2 out of 5 stars 100 ratings

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From the Publisher

tiepolo blue

Product description


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. ―

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. ―

[An] arresting debut novel... a masterly attention to (especially visual) detail and in 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 ―

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 ―

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. ―

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. ―

[An] old-fashioned ambitious novel about the wonders of art and the depths of the human heart, full of people and ideas ―
The Times

Book Description

An exquisite debut novel. A mid-life coming-of-age story charting one man's sexual awakening and his spectacular fall from grace in 1990s London, raising questions about art and beauty, sex and censure. For fans of Allan Hollinghurst and Edward St Aubyn.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sceptre (9 Jun. 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1529369398
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529369397
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.4 x 3.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Customer reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 100 ratings

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James Cahill has worked in the art world and academia for fifteen years, combining writing with a role at a leading contemporary gallery. He is currently a Research Fellow in Classics at King's College London. His writing has been published in the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Burlington Magazine.

Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
100 global ratings

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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written!
By Aoife // Littlebookelf92 on 9 August 2022
‘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.’

🌑🌑🌑🌑🌓 (4.5/5)

Hate to love characters? YES.
Dark Academia vibes? MY GOODNESS YES!
Questionable motives? UNDENIABLY!

Oh how this book stole my heart. Not only is it so beautifully written that it makes me want to write, it makes me want to wander around an art gallery and appreciate each piece for everything it is.

I love that it is shown throughout the book that art is not something we just observe, but rather that we feel.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating an entire spread in my journal and writing thoughts as the story developed.
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