A Perfect Copy

Written by Derville Murphy
Review by Sally Zigmond

In present-day Dublin, problems arise at an auction sale when two strangers, Daisy Staunton and Ben Tarrant, both want to sell identical portraits of a beautiful 19th-century lady by a well-regarded Irish artist. One must be a fake, but which one? The plot thickens when, after a brief discussion, they realise not only are they related, they descend from a Jewish community in Russian-dominated Poland (now present-day Ukraine), which adds extra resonance to today’s readers.

What begins as a modern romance between Ben, a primary school teacher, and Daisy, a marketing executive, takes a dramatic twist to relate the lives of two young impoverished Jewish sisters, Rosa and Lena Rabinovitch. The novel follows the reversals of fortune in their relationship and their separate flights to Vienna, Paris and London, reinventing themselves along the way. As Ben and Daisy each learn more about their origins, they discover harsh family secrets, causing them to question their own lives and priorities and what they want in life.

There was much in this detailed novel I enjoyed, and it provides a rich portrayal of European history with the addition of a sweet love story. It also gave me pause for thought as to my own origins. I only wished the text had been edited more rigorously, and I could have empathised more with the characters, although the author took great pains to explain why they acted as they did. Desperation makes for tough decisions and deep regrets.