Review: Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan by Deborah Reed

The cover of this book looks so calming and elegant. The second I saw this cover it put me in the mood for some high brow literature. The only problem was that I wasn’t quite in that sam mood when I picked this one up to actually start reading.

When I first read the description for this one, it was back in early spring and was due to be released in the early summer but then it got pushed back to the fall and while I might have been ready for some heavy reading in the spring/summer, I was not in the mood for that in the fall.

But I picked it up anyway because that cover is truly stunning and I love the artistic feel of it and I thought it might be a nice change of pace from all the murder and horror I have been reading lately.


The story of a famous abstract painter at the end of her life—her family, her art, and the long-buried secrets that won’t stay hidden for much longer.

Ninety-three-year-old Violet Swan has spent a lifetime translating tragedy and hardship into art, becoming famous for her abstract paintings, which evoke tranquility, innocence, and joy. For nearly a century Violet has lived a peaceful, private life of painting on the coast of Oregon. The “business of Violet” is run by her only child, Francisco, and his wife, Penny. But shortly before Violet’s death, an earthquake sets a series of events in motion, and her deeply hidden past begins to resurface. When her beloved grandson returns home with a family secret in tow, Violet is forced to come to terms with the life she left behind so long ago—a life her family knows nothing about.

A generational saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America and into the present day, Violet Swan is the story of a girl who escaped rural Georgia at fourteen during World War II, crossing the country alone and with no money. It is the story of how that girl met the man who would become her devoted husband, how she became a celebrated artist, and above all, how her life, inspired by nothing more than the way she imagines it to be, will turn out to be her greatest masterpiece. (summary from Goodreads)


While this book might not have been what I was in the mood for, it doesn’t mean that it was a bad read. While I might have been more in the mood for horror and mysteries, this book was a slower paced, like a gentle breeze with thoughtfulness and reflection. I also loved the it featured the Oregon Coast, which is a place that I go often so I felt that I really had a sense for the scenery and setting of this novel. For me the setting added a lot for that simple reason. When the setting is that familiar to me as a reader, it takes on a life of its own and thus makes me enjoy the novel that much more.

I enjoyed the main character, Violet, and thought that her character was a colorful and abstract as her paintings and she had a genuine quality about her that was refreshing in this book. While it might not have been the past paced read that I was looking for, it forced me to slow down and savor the story and characters in a way that I wasn’t in the mood or even prepared to do.

In many ways I think if I had read this book a few months ago, I would have given it five stars. The reflection, pace, and overall peace of the novel made it perfect for a lazy summer afternoon where it’s light out longer and the days are warm and you can forget about everything around you and just be absorbed in the intensity of the book. But considering I read it at a time when I was more geared up for dark twisty mysteries, I think I might have enjoyed it less based on my mood. My mood made it difficult to review.

This book was a deep and reflective book and I would consider it more high brow and intellectual. There were a lot of heavy themes and a lot of things to unpack and process in this book. There is a distinct sadness around Violet’s character that radiates off the pages and I really enjoyed that about her character. If you love books with a lot of heart as well as books that make you think and examine not just the characters but even yourself, then you are going to love this book.

Book Info and Rating

Kindle Edition,

288 pages

Expected publication: October 6th 2020 by Mariner Books 


Free review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin/Mariner Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: historical fiction


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