beyond measure


Beyond measure

Twin themes of beauty and terror, explored through the worlds of art and science, meet in 16th-Century Italy where a tale of love and mischief unfolds.

When the artist Paolo Pallavicino acquires his patron’s discarded slave, he finds himself in possession of an extraordinary girl. With skin both black and white, Chiara, as she comes to be called, is a an object of both fascination and fear — and a natural scapegoat when catastrophe strikes. Passed from painter to painter she is a silent witness to the dangerous games the artists play and to the rivalries that fuel their creations.

As Chiara falls successively into the hands of the painter Sofonisba Fabroni, and  the bronze sulptor, Matteo Tassi, the artists’ games become more extreme, their creations more outrageous — and the artistic world of 16th century Italy more treacherous.

The girl is not beautiful. And she must know this, wherever she came from. She is an aberration. Against Nature. She is not beautiful and yet her face has a pleasing form and her eyes are lively. Her hair is abundant and tightly curled. Her cheek bones are too broad and too high perhaps but not out of keeping. She is pleasingly proportioned. But her skin — the mark of Cain could be no worse. To live inside such skin is to be clothed in disgrace, to go about the world as a herald — the blasphemy will not be suppressed — of God’s cruel indifference. Paolo wonders how she came to be purchased at all. How she survived her birth. He pictures her on the dock at Genoa where the newly arrived captives are displayed on barrels. He wonders why she is not at the bottom of the harbour.

Published in Canada by Cormorant Books.
Published in the US and Australia as A Rare and Curious Gift (W.W. Norton & Co.)

“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
The Globe and Mail

“Holdstock’s new novel, Beyond Measure, is a beautiful, unsettling tragedy about art, God, superstition, morality and, above all, vanity……..This well-executed novel can sit comfortably on any bookshelf alongside work by writers like A.S. Byatt and Jane Urquhart.”
The Vancouver Sun

“In Beyond Measure, Holdstock has created a fascinating portrayal of a society obsessed with surfaces, which sees the creation of beauty as ample justification for torture, mutilation, and murder.”
Books in Canada

Published in Canada by Cormorant Books.
Published in the US and Australia as A Rare and Curious Gift (W.W. Norton & CO.)


• Paperback: 300 pages
• Publisher: Cormorant Books 2004
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 189695149X
• ISBN-13: 978-1896951492