According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, a gadfly is “an insect that goads or stings cattle, as a horsefly. A person who annoys or irritates others.” Supposedly, the Greek philosopher Socrates was a gadfly because he irritated others by causing them to analyze their thought processes. Inevitably, analysis revealed errors of not only reasoning but conclusions – mental boo boos. Rather than rejoicing over their newfound enlightenment, people became upset. People don’t like being told they are wrong or stupid or illogical. So they began avoiding Socrates like the plague, along with talking about him behind his back, saying nasty things about him. But Socrates didn’t care. He considered it his duty to be an irritant, a gadfly. So he kept doing it. In the end, he annoyed so many people so much that they decided to do something about it. It wasn’t pleasant.
Jesus was a gadfly too.
So is the protagonist of Brushstrokes of a Gadfly, a wonderful, walloping novel by E.A. Bucchianeri. Katherine Walsingham is the star of Brushstrokes. She is beautiful, talented, intelligent, sensual, and comes from an affluent, well-bred family in New York City. Kat’s only flaw is that she enjoys stirring the pot. She doesn’t believe in going along to get along. Thus, she utilizes her art to cause viewers to re-evaluate their conclusions about religion, cultural traditions, nuclear power, women’s rights, government corruption, and the true definition of freedom. Naturally, Kat receives lots of attention, while at the same time annoying lots of people, people who prefer the status quo to remain stationary.
The pedantry of Katherine is obvious, as she tries to set the world to rights. What’s funny is that while Kat is busy being a gadfly, the pedantry of Life wiggles in and disrupts Kat’s vision for her future. Determined to eschew romantic entanglements because of their destabilizing effects, Kat unexpectedly finds herself falling in love with one of New York’s most eligible bachelors. Because of a peculiar combination of circumstances – Kat’s reluctance, her paramour’s family, and gossip – the romance appears headed for disappointment.
Whether or not Life and Love find a way won’t be discussed. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Essentially, Brushstrokes is a high literary romance novel. Imagine Roberto Bolano meets Nicholas Sparks: erudite and gracious with a saccharine undertone of romance and the unpredictability of life. In other words, it’s exaggerated, quaint, absurd, funny, touching, and very much like reality.
E.A. Bucchianeri guides the reader through all the twists and turns of the story with remarkable aplomb, utilizing what the reviewer calls “an informed literary style.” Translation: easy to read, yet without all the dreary flatness that inhabits most ‘high literary’ novels. The story sparkles with various subplots and unique characters – stories within the story – that provide diversion and respite from the primary thread of romantic tension. The reviewer’s favorite is Kat’s grandfather, who, having avoided the psychological pitfalls of great wealth, speaks from his heart, which he wears on his sleeve.
Brushstrokes of a Gadfly is a big book, weighing in at a couple of pounds and 1040 pages. Just looking at it makes a potential reader pause and consider. However, any doubts may be set aside. After the first two pages, you’ll be pleased with your purchase. It’s long, but it has everything you’re looking for: humor, love, human interrelations, good writing, a plot that moves along, and emotional catharsis.