The epigraphs are all by Robert Browning, except one, which is a palpable forgery.
This is not an autobiographical novel: it is about some other portly, dissolute, immoral and middle-aged art dealer. The rest of the characters are quite imaginary too, especially that Mrs. Spon, but most of the places are real.
Opening: When you burn an old carved and gilt picture frame it makes a muted hissing noise in the grate - a genteel fooh - and the gold leaf tints the flames a wonderful peacock blue-green. I was watching this effect smugly on Wednesday evening when Martland came to see me. He rang the bell three times very fast, an imperious man in a hurry.
You have to be in the right mood to get anything out of this outrageous skit. Subtle it is not. Luckily, I was up for some mayhem on this dreich, Russian subs in the Baltic, flooded roads, chicken breasts for dinner, day. I won't be looking for another but am pleased to have had a look in on Bonfiglioli's manic art world.