I was wrong though. The characters are subtly portrayed but built up in layers with a realism which makes their fate (which, of course, we know in advance) still seem like a shock.
Historical fiction van be very hit-and-miss but this, like Robert Harris’ Pompeii, is a well-researched and beautifully told tale of a tragedy which we think we can not be touched by.
I particularly like (surprisingly) the inclusion of Picasso, as his search for a theme runs parallel with the main narrative.
The novel is nowhere near as powerful as the mural, but it moved me and I respect and applaud it for that.