I already have a soft spot for books and movies about the power of art, but even without it I’m sure I’d still loved this one.

Although it’s a children’s book I would recommend it to everyone, including people who get entranced by a Chagall or Klimt, people who can’t help thinking “I could do that” when looking at a Miró or Mondrian, and those like me, who do both.

Dylan is a young boy living in the small Welsh town of Manod (population: very few and rapidly decreasing). So small that Dylan becomes the only boy in his school. He’s fervently proud of Manod, but his family might be forced to move to greener pastures. They own the only gas station/copy shop/coffee house around, but as people leave town, business is dangerously slow.

But Manod’s lethargy is about to be challenged: because of floods in London, the entire art collection of the British Museum is moved to the inside of Manod Mountain’s abandoned mines. As townspeople start to interact with the paintings, the whole village slowly comes to life once again.

There are few things that I love more in literature than a British village full of eccentric characters, and Manod has its fair share. It’s fascinating to see their reaction to art’s strange new world: Nice Tom, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ #1 fan, is inspired by Meléndez’s “Still Life with Oranges and Walnuts” to create unique window displays, while the bitter Mr. Davis, the butcher with a phobia of liver, after seeing Monet’s “The Bathers at La Grenouillère” takes a decision that will astonish the whole town.

After reading the amazing The Monuments Men last year I needed to know more about art preservation during WWII and Framed caught my eye because it’s based on a true story. During the blitz the paintings of the British Museum were hidden in a vast mine, a mile underground, in the remote town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. The whole thing was supposed to be top-secret, but we’re talking about a small town after all… Once a month one of the paintings was sent back to London’s National Gallery and people would queue up just to look at that one painting.

Stuff like this makes me all fuzzy inside.

In an interview, Cottrell Boyce mentions another story that inspired him: during the war the Hermitage in St. Petersburg still offered tours to visitors, even though the pictures were all stored away. The guides would point to empty spaces on the wall and describe the wonders that used to hang there.

This book is worth a try, promise: it’s funny, slightly ironic, touching AND the BBC produced an adaptation, which is always a good sign.

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Other thoughts: The Tired Reader (yours?)

Book read for One, Two, Theme Challenge
Theme 5: Art business/restoration

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