Equal parts mystery novel, ghost story, romance, and cultural history of the mid-20th century, The Search for Peter Hunt is unlike any book I've ever read.
After years of sifting through hints, rumors, vague recollections, and unreliable witnesses, Lynn Van Dine has reconstructed and told the story of a real-life Jay Gatsby, a man who scrambled up the social ladder from a New Jersey tenement to the salons of Paris, charming the rich and famous, inventing a business and a life, and telling stupendous lies. Once featured in Life and House Beautiful, Hunt died impoverished and alone in a Provincetown cottage, but now his playful folk-art designs are selling for large sums.
The only way to describe The Search for Peter Hunt is the way his contemporaries described the man himself: outrageous, uproarious, unconventional, and irresistible..
'Peter Hunt was a terribleand wonderfulliar.' In one sentence author Lynn C. Van Dine sums up the life of an extraordinary artist who raised himself from poverty to become one of the nation’s leading folk artists.
Without cunning and artifice it is likely that Peter Hunt may never have willed himself into being. Author Lynn C. Van Dine does much to penetrate the layers of camouflage and fabrications Hunt so deftly managed to create during his lifetime. The end result is a moving, often affectionate account of Peter Hunt’s rise to fame during the cultural upheaval in America that spanned the two World Wars.
The Search for Peter Hunt reads like a novel. At once compelling and credible, Van Dine’s portrait brings much to light regarding this enigmatic artist whose life, work and influences is only now beginning to be understood and fully appreciated.
The Search for Peter Hunt provides an insightful glimpse into the imagined life of one of Cape Cod’s most colorful characters. Lynn Van Dine has crafted an interesting and amusing story around the legendary folk artists, fittingly couching reality as fiction, much as the real Peter Hunt created his own fictionand built a careerout of bits of discarded reality.
Just as Peter Hunt stood out as a character in a community rich in characters, The Search for Peter Hunt stands out as superb historical fiction, as informative as it is entertaining.
The author "uses a framing device in the book to explore what she imagines would be Hunt’s reaction, casting the artist, who died in 1967, as a ghost trying to discourage the author from writing his biography . . . Despite its fictional trappings, “The Search for Peter Hunt” is meticulously researched and steeped in the actual people and events that shaped Hunt’s life and career.