Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind
by Anne Charnock
Review by Mel Jacob
47North Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781503950436
Date: 01 December 2015 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
This literary science fiction novel, Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind by Anne Charnock, delves into art history and the lives of three families living in three different periods. The life style of a 15th century Italian painter appears well depicted. The story of each family shows some of the choices faced by women in specific period in which they lived.
The family of renowned artist Paolo Uccello lives in 1469 Florence. He has retired and is teaching his daughter Antonia to paint. The main problem the family faces is whether to contract a marriage for Antonia or to send her to the convent. Her father believes the convent offers the better opportunity for her to develop her skills as an artist.
In 2015, teenage Toni Munroe and her copyist father Dominic live in London. Toni is clever, but both she and her father are still adjusting to the death of Toni's mother a year ago. A visit to China to consult on a commission provides a respite for both.
Toniah Stone, a specialist in 15th century Italian art lives in 2113 and comes from a partho family. All the members are female. Women can choose to have natural childbirth from implanted embryos or have the embryo come to a full nine months in a baby bottle, an artificial womb. She discovers that her family once included a male child.
The characters are sympathetic and well drawn. The literary novel focuses on the differences between the futures the three young women face and how their times affect their lives. The most vivid is that of 15th century Italy. The discussions of art, composition, and color are fascinating.
Unfortunately, the various story-lines are not resolved, but end abruptly as so often happens in literary novels. As for science fiction fans, the novel doesn't provide much of a view of the world of 2113 except for the partho bits. Charnock has one published novel, A Calculated Life (2113) and is at work on another novel, Dreams Before the Start of Time (2017).