Many say this book is too long, too much detail and sidetracking. I understand those reactions. At times, I thought “come on, get with it!” Finishing it made it worthwhile. The strands were all pulled together, the meaning of each period and event played a role in the end.
Sometimes I think our culture and media keep us from just soaking in a work of art. We want to get to the action, to get to the end, to have constant movement. But art is not always about that—which is one of the themes of this book! In fact, the events and obsession with the painting—throughout the protagonist’s life—revolves around the value simply basking in the work, and letting it be.
For those of you who are struggling through it, might I suggest: just relax in it and let the novel be what it is—a painting in literary form. Some strokes are off to the side, some right in the middle, some subtle, some bold. Some a crucial part of the subject, others seemingly pointless but still part of the overall image.
Take it all in (all 700+ pages!) and judge it once finished. I think most who do this will find they were glad they read it.