San Francisco Chronicle: The Year's Finest: Best Books of 2004 The Painting
by Nina Schuyler (Algonquin Books; 299 pages; $23.95): According to the tenets
of Buddhism, life is suffering, and suffering arises inexorably from desire, from
the act of wanting. In Nina Schuyler's meditative first novel, "The Painting,"
the interplay between want and need not only creates the thematic backbone of
the book but also drives the story itself -- the tale of the struggles of a young
female painter living in Meiji-era Japan, and the life of the illegitimate daughter
of a well-heeled Parisian during the Franco-Prussian War. Each of her characters
is afflicted with his or her own particular form of suffering, and each, in turn,
is likewise afflicted with the hope of bringing that suffering to an end.