Book Review: The Eyes That Look by Julia Grigg

I absolutely love Italy, not that I’ve never mentioned that in a blog post before… Today, I’m happy to go back to my favourite country to discover Venice, northern Italy and the art scene of the mid-sixteenth-century.

The Eyes That Look* by Julia Grigg centres around young Francesco Bassano and his journey to find out why an extraordinary painting was made. Throughout the book, he journeys across the Veneto and to Florence, where he learns about loyalty and the unbreakable bond between a master and his dogs, about the determination it takes to innovate, and about the sacrifices needed to turn ambitions into reality.

Let’s start at the start with this one. The Eyes That Look opens with Francesco as he works at his father’s art studio in Bassano. Following a trip to Venice with his uncle, he feels both his and his father’s work is insulted by Maestro Titian. This sets off Francesco’s passion to prove himself and break away from his father, but also get his father the recognition he deserves. When he finds a sketch of two dogs that turns out to be the basis of a painting his father produced but is reluctant to talk about, Francesco’s journey begins.

All the information in the above paragraph we find out in the opening chapters of the book, which are told from the viewpoint of Francesco. At this point in the story, I wondered if I would enjoy The Eyes That Look at all. These chapters are pretty slow. However, things soon begin to speed up as the following chapters are told from the viewpoints of the other characters involved in the commission of the dog portrait. Still, Francesco’s chapters can’t be completely disregarded. They provide us with the secret that builds suspense while also laying the foundations of the father/son relationship I found most fascinating.

Julia Grigg really knows how to set a scene and the descriptive writing in this book is simply beautiful. Through her words, I was transported to the mindset of an artist. I am by no means an artist and to be honest, I don’t have much of an interest in art in general, but The Eyes That Look really gave me an appreciation of this creative form. Therefore, my enjoyment in reading this story was not about the plot itself in terms of art, instead, it was the journey of Francesco. For me, this was a wonderful piece about coming of age, discovering who you are, and finding your place in the world. I’ve read many books which followed this path but The Eyes That Look is by far written the most cleverly.

Overall, this was a fantastic book. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it at first but suddenly everything clicked and no doubt I’ll be thinking about The Eyes That Look for a while.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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*affiliate link


  1. Thankyou Joy for your review, for your compliments – and for your constructive comments too. I’m taking in everything in order to do better, climb higher next time!
    I’m really cheered that you say you’ll look at paintings differently now and I hope Bassanos will top that list! Hope my list at end of book of where to see the artworks mentioned will be useful for that.

  2. This sounds like an amazing journey. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book centered around art before, but I might give this a try. I love Venice too, and whenever I see it mentioned in books I get curious because it’s fascinating seeing it through other people’s eyes. Thank you for sharing. I’ll definitely add this book to my TBR

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