Author: Heidi Sopinka
Publication Date: 11th August 2022
It’s okay for men to make bad art. There’s no price on their head for doing it … Nothing for men is pre-determined, except their chance at great success.
Los Angeles, 1978.
When Romy, a gifted young artist in the male-dominated art scene of 1970s California, dies in suspicious circumstances, it is not long before her art-star husband Billy finds a replacement.
Paz, fresh out of art school in New York, returns to California to take her place. But she is haunted by Romy, who is everywhere: in the photos and notebooks and art strewn around the house, and in the eyes of the baby she left behind.
As Paz attempts to claim her creative life, strange things begin to happen. Photographs move, noises reverberate through the house, people start to question what really happened the night Romy died, and then a postcard in her handwriting arrives. As Paz becomes increasingly obsessed with the woman she has replaced, a disturbing picture begins to emerge, driving her deep into the desert ― the site of Romy’s final artwork ― to uncover the truth.
At once an exquisite exploration of creativity and an atmospheric page-turner, Utopia is a book that takes hold of you and will leave you altered.
One of the taglines for this book that I first saw was ‘As if Joan Didion wrote Rebecca’ and if that’s not enough to entice readers I don’t know what is! I loved this fascinating exploration of creativity, feminism in a male dominated industry, womanhood and motherhood. The majority of the book is set in Los Angeles in the 1970’s and Sopinka does an incredible job of building the atmospheric sense of setting whether it be the oppressive heat or the dramatic desert landscapes.
Utopia did in many ways put me in mind of Du Maurier’s masterpiece, Rebecca, especially in terms of the unnerving, slightly sinister atmosphere. However it is also very much a beautifully accomplished novel in its own right and with its own narrative strength. Reading Utopia was almost like falling into a trance – it swept me up with its poetic yet sharp prose and I found the intricacies of art and memory entrancing. Moving, incisive and melancholically beautiful – I would absolutely recommend!
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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