Proof of the adage is in the comparison between F.G. Haghenbeck’s 2012 novel “The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo” and art historian Frank Miler’s coffee-table book “Frida Kahlo” with 80 confessional paintings—the latter winning the day.
I was probably only 1/3rd through the library-borrowed novel when I felt compelled to turn to my own copy of Kahlo’s 80 paintings to SEE what the novelist had been trying to describe. His words could hardly do justice to her brushstrokes, colors, and images.
It took only a quick browse of Kahlo’s personal art for me to come to the conclusion that I don’t need to return to the novel.
If you’re a word person, turn (as I do frequently) to another book, “The Diary of Frida Kahlo: an Intimate Portrait.” This illustrated journal includes her thoughts, poems, & dreams during the years 1944-54. Don’t speak Spanish, you say? Not to worry, there’s a full translation, plus commentaries, in the latter third of the book. OK, so tis a bit of a drag to keep flipping between full page diary entries to the back section for translation, but the revelations are well worth the effort.
Skip the novel, borrow a picture book.