REVIEW: Still Lives, Maria Hummel

Friday, 14 December 2018

A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition. Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women. As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her. Set against a culture that too often fetishizes violence against women, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

In a novel that was supposed to critique the culture of violence surrounding women and their bodies, Still Lives only managed to glorify it. And the unique selling point of the book - the artist’s ‘self-portraits’ of herself as famous female murder victims, felt incredibly offensive and tasteless. How she would be considered a feminist by anyone’s standards, I will never know. And, all of the other characters?
Instead of raising women’s voices in a powerful crescendo, it had them bitching and shooting daggers at one another; obsessing over one another and wanting each other to fall. It was as if the book was some sort of horrendously misogynistic teen rom-com from the early 00s.
All in all, Still Lives only added to the exploitation, the misogyny, the glorification, the titillation - violence against women in minute detail for violence-sake. Honestly, I have never read a book that failed to make its point so wholly.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Head on over to for this book, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

No comments :

Post a Comment