BOOK CLUB: ​The Girl in the Painting

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[Total: 4 Average: 4.3]

Author: Tea Cooper
ISBN: 9781489270726
Copy courtesy of Harper Collins

This was not the first of Tea Cooper’s books that I have had the pleasure to read, and I am very sure it won’t be the last. The Girl in the Painting flicks between the 1860s and the early 1900s. Michael and his sister Elizabeth have managed to build a life for themselves in Maitland, NSW after making their way as children from the UK to Australia.


They were to be met on the wharf by their parents, but when they arrive to find that their parents are not waiting for them at all. It was then left to Michael to work out how to handle this situation. A very kind lady had taken a shine to young Elizabeth while on the voyage and she seemed very keen to continue her care of her.

Michael decides it would be best for Elizabeth to stay with this couple rather than to come with him while he tries to find out what has happened to his parents. He discovers his mother has passed away and his father’s health is failing. Michael takes over the business that his father had built. He works hard to expand the business and save money so that he can give money to the people that are looking after Elizabeth, making sure she goes to school and has an education.

It takes some time but Michael works hard and manages in the end to give Elizabeth the home with him that he had always felt she deserved. All is well until the now young adult Elizabeth visits an exhibition at the Technical College and takes an odd turn. Her assistant, Jane Piper is in shock as she has never seen Elizabeth behave in such a manner before. Sadly this behaviour is to repeat itself. So begins the mystery and the challenge to unearth Elizabeth’s repressed memories and the mystery of why they are slowly invading her life.

I read this book while sitting in the hospital garden for several hours while I waited as a family member underwent surgery. The story and its mystery were enough to drag me in and keep my mind from all the hospital drama. A wonderful way to spend a few hours.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading​ The Girl In The Painting ​ by Tea Cooper​. ​ You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

14 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: ​The Girl in the Painting

  1. Girl in the Painting

    An enthralling historical fiction mystery set in the late 1800s and early 1900s in England and country Australia.
    The story is mainly told through Jane, a young orphan who is taken in by brother and sister Michael and Elizabeth Quinn.
    Michael and Elizabeth travel to Australia to meet up with their parents who travelled ahead to set up a new life for the family.
    The life they set up for themselves is good and they are well respected philanthropists to the community they live in.
    They ‘adopt’ Jane Piper as a young girl who has an real intellectual ability with numbers. The Quinn’s wish to provide an education for Jane and she becomes a part of the family.
    One day Elizabeth takes a turn when she views a painting. Jane is unsure why or what to do but she is determined to help Jane from whatever is causing her distress. There are secrets, intrigue and a little romance. When the past catches up with the family there are surprises that the reader doesn’t see coming.
    I really enjoyed the description of life in the gold rush period and the social and cultural differences between the different cultures that came to strike it rich. I also enjoyed the portrayal of strong women in an era of a man’s world.
    The Girl in the Painting is a truly engaging historically interesting story that I highly recommend.

  2. The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper and published by Harper Collins, is a beautifully portrayed Australian historical novel with an intriguing family mystery interwoven through it, as well.

    The story is set during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. It initially jumps between two tales, and at times I found this a bit frustrating. However once the two tales came together, the novel flowed much better for me, and I became completely engrossed.

    The first story tells how Irish immigrant brother and sister Elizabeth and Michael Ó’Cuinn, later Quinn, came to NSW from England. It details how they built themselves up from nothing to become successful business owners in the goldfields of Hills End, and later in Maitland.

    The second tale is about Jane Piper, a young orphan and math prodigy who longs for a life beyond the orphanage where she was left as an unwanted baby. It outlines her gradual blossoming as she is taken in by Michael and Elizabeth. They encourage her love of numbers and logic. With Elizabeth in particular instilling in Jane a fierce independence and appreciation of women’s capabilities and business savvy, such that Jane becomes an integral part of both the Quinn’s personal and business lives.

    With these stories unfolding in the background, a sudden disruption occurs when unflappable Elizabeth suffers ‘an episode’ at an Art exhibition, and starts to have strange flashbacks and memories… Jane is determined to find out what has caused the normally poised Elizabeth to become so unravelled. Michael too is worried about his sister, and cant help feeling that he is responsible. Is the past catching up to the present? And what is the significance of the girl in the painting?

    This is a well written and nicely paced book, with beautifully depicted characters and settings, and a fascinating family mystery that keeps you captivated up until the last page!

  3. I loved this book.
    It jumps back and forward in place and time but does it really well. With some books, I’ve found it hard to follow the story when this happens but not with this one.
    The story follows several storylines which all come together with a big twist. There is the well off family that weren’t always, the orphan girl they rescue and the English artist’s family..
    Apart from anyrthing else, I learnt a lot about Australia’s early history

  4. The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper was a very enjoyable book..

    The story is about brother and sister, Michael and Elizabeth Quinn who have decided to help a young orphan Jane Piper by providing a home and advanced education.

    One day Elizabeth has a distressing reaction to a painting at a local exhibition.

    The story follows hers and Jane’s present search to understand why the painting affected her, and her past experiences. The reader has to concentrate between the two time spans, but it works in this case.

    I enjoyed the suspense created, the characters were believable, and the story was very well written.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace, and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review

  5. Tea Cooper is, in my opinion, the Master of Australian Historical Fiction. “The Girl in the Painting” is an absolutely wonderful book, weaving Australian history and suspense brilliantly. Tea is also incredibly good in the way she weaves time lines. The gold fields of Hill End, 1863, Maitland as an early settlement in 1906 through to 1913 gives historical insight blended with a suspenseful mystery that together makes for as good a book as I’ve read recently.

    I love Tea Cooper’s work and the way she weaves fiction with historical reality gives a book that becomes real. Totally believable, wonderfully interesting with characters and settings that you love and feel for. The reader understands how difficult it must have been for a very young Michael O’Cuinn, becoming Michael Quinn, bringing his very young sister from Ireland to Australia to join his parents then finding tragedy with his parents, thus needing to accept responsibility for himself and his sister, Elizabeth. The way the characters grow, develop over years and interact when interwoven with well researched and documented historical facts culminating in the “girl in the painting” mystery is written with such sympathy and understanding that the reader “knows” the people involved.

    The “girl in the painting” as in the actual painting that causes so much angst and mystery is brilliantly written into the story and the way the mystery eventually unravels is fascinating.

    It is difficult to say a lot about the wonderful story without giving anything away. I have no hesitation in recommending this latest Tea Cooper book to anyone who loves Australian Historical Fiction. Tea Cooper fans will love every second of the reading. I can’t thank Beauty and Lace, Harper Collins through Harlequin Australia and Tea Cooper enough for the opportunity to experience this fabulous book. It is a masterpiece.

  6. ✔️The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper and published by Harper Collins, is a beautifully portrayed Australian historical novel with an intriguing family mystery interwoven through it, as well.

    The story is set during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. It initially jumps between two tales, and at times I found this a bit frustrating. However once the two tales came together, the novel flowed much better for me, and I became completely engrossed.

    The first story tells how Irish immigrant brother and sister Elizabeth and Michael Ó’Cuinn, later Quinn, came to NSW from England. It details how they built themselves up from nothing to become successful business owners in the goldfields of Hills End, and later in Maitland.

    The second tale is about Jane Piper, a young orphan and math prodigy who longs for a life beyond the orphanage where she was left as an unwanted baby. It outlines her gradual blossoming as she is taken in by Michael and Elizabeth. They encourage her love of numbers and logic. With Elizabeth in particular instilling in Jane a fierce independence and appreciation of women’s capabilities and business savvy, such that Jane becomes an integral part of both the Quinn’s personal and business lives.

    With these stories unfolding in the background, a sudden disruption occurs when unflappable Elizabeth suffers ‘an episode’ at an Art exhibition, and starts to have strange flashbacks and memories… Jane is determined to find out what has caused the normally poised Elizabeth to become so unravelled. Michael too is worried about his sister, and cant help feeling that he is responsible. Is the past catching up to the present? And what is the significance of the girl in the painting?

    This is a well written and nicely paced book, with beautifully depicted characters and settings, and a fascinating family mystery that keeps you captivated up until the last page!

  7. The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper, a historical mystery, was a thoroughly enjoyable read, I really liked how the story unfolded from different time frames of the characters, each looking from their own perspective to help resolve the mystery of Elizabeth Quinn, a stalwart of society cowering in a corner at an art exhibition. Her brother Michael has many gaps of information to fill but it is her savant Jane Piper who needs all her skills as a mathematician to unravel the puzzle as the past and present converge. While the descriptions of the different landscapes involving goldfields, Sydney, England and country Australia created a vivid background. A terrific story that lets the reader walk away feeling very satisfied.

    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins Australia for giving me the opportunity to read and review Tea Cooper’s ‘The Girl in the Painting’

  8. I really enjoyed The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper. It was quite a different look at events during the early turn of the century. What a lucky young lady June was to have a benevolent supporter such as Michael and Elizabeth. The usual fate of orphan girls did not end up so pretty. But then what talents of young girls who showed inquisitive minds got to use them as she did.
    Elizabeth was a bit of puzzle to me. She is brought to mind as a strong woman with forward thinking but through out most of the book, she was a merely doing what most males in that turn of the century thought woman were like. This may just be to show the human side of her. I’m not meaning it to be a criticism (although its sounds like it to me rereading this) merely my thoughts on the character. Michael comes across as a wonderful grandfatherly figure and the surprise was slowly revealed, making me feel sorry for him.
    My only disappointment in this book was the revealing of the end before the end. I didn’t think it quite needed to go too much longer after. The title didn’t make much sense to me either, but in the end, it did.

  9. This would have to be hands down one of my favourite books from the last 12 months reading! Absolutely loved every moment of it!

    It certainly didnt me take long to become fully immersed in this book, its such a beautifully written story. The setting, through Tea’s fantastic storytelling, is so vivid and clear and the characters so likeable.

    The timeline alternates between past (mid 1800s) and present (early 1900s) which I found flowed seemlessly and the pace of the story fantastic, it was easy to read and very easy to enjoy!

    If you are looking for a great Australian historical novel you are guaranteed a good one if its by Tea Cooper!

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harper Collins for the chance to read and review this fantastic book.

  10. The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper

    Tea Cooper has done it again! Another fantastic book by this author.

    Set around immigrant brother Michael Quinn and his sister Elizabeth in the 1860’s and Jane Piper in 1913 this novel is a compelling tale that weaves the timelines in a tight and cleverly written fashion that draws the reader in and won’t let go
    Showcasing strong female characters, whose shared determination results in them unravelling a surprising mystery, Tea presents another novel that is gripping and hard to put down and that keeps you guessing to the very end.
    Having read a previous title by this author I was expecting a similar theme in this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised, that while equally gripping writing to the first title, this book was a totally new and fresh topic.
    I would highly recommend this book and would award it 4 and ½ stars.

  11. It is hard enough to change home as an adult but Michael and young Elizabeth make the massive trek from Liverpool to Australia all on their own at a young age. The journey to join their parents making a new life in a new country in a time of the gold rush. The first hurdle is getting on the boat.
    Jane is an orphan, trying to keep her head up in an orphanage, but her mouth gets the better of her, and her thinking. But little does she realise all is about to change for her, a new life with an opportunity to educate herself and follow her mathematical passion.
    Join Michael and Elizabeth as they find their feet in a new country that did not promise what they expected, their parents not meeting them at the warf, the home life a harder start than expected. A life with Orientals (Chinese) on the mine fields not all they thought would be their start.
    Logical and practical, Jane makes the most of her life, funded by benefactors who are kind enough but not quite family.

    A great read that starts a bit slow and works up to combine the stories and intrigue you in way you may not have expected. Some controversy of Australian past, and a twist that at first you couldnt see coming. Thoroughly enjoyed this read… Thank you Beauty and Lace Bookclub and Harper Collins for a great read.

  12. This is the first of Tea Cooper’s books I’ve had the privilege of reading. The Girl in the Painting is a story set in two times-the 1860s and the early 1900s.
    The 1860s see young brother and sister, Michael and Elizabeth immigrate to NSW where they have to make a life for themselves. We also jump to the 1900s where young orphan Jane is assistant to Elizabeth, when one day Elizabeth has a weird episode in an exhibition.
    The story jumps between both times and gives and interesting look into what life was like in both eras. It has the typical secrets to be discovered that keep it interesting.
    Thanks to Harper Collins and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this book.

  13. I’m a huge fan of Tea Cooper. This book did not disappoint! Straddling the fine line between romance and mystery, it was a most enjoyable read. Sad at times, uplifting at other times. The characters ranged between lovable, infuriating and horrible.
    A thoroughly enjoyable read.

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