Fairfield artist's painting pivotal to Harlan Coben thriller

Novelist Harlan Coben greets Fairfield artist Carol C. Young at the release of his newest novel, Six Years, March 19 at Barnes & Noble on Broadway in New York City. Young’s painting Cottage on the Hill is key to the plot of Coben’s latest thriller.

Novelist Harlan Coben greets Fairfield artist Carol C. Young at the release of his newest novel, Six Years, March 19 at Barnes & Noble on Broadway in New York City. Young’s painting Cottage on the Hill is key to the plot of Coben’s latest thriller.

Artist Carol C. Young was thrilled to sell two rural landscape paintings last summer — Cottage on the Hill and Clarity — to a customer who couldn’t decide which of the two to purchase.

It wasn’t until Young returned to her Fairfield home that she realized the art enthusiast was Harlan Coben, a prolific writer whose best-selling page-turners are consistently found at the top of The New York Times Book List.

Young was even more surprised to learn that Cottage on the Hill plays a pivotal role in Coben’s latest novel, Six Years.

Coben met Young at the Quogue Historical Society’s Art Show/Sale in Westhampton, N.Y., last August. After giving a book talk at the nearby Quogue Library, Coben and his wife strolled around the arts festival taking place on the Quogue village green.

“I didn’t expect anything to strike me,” Coben said.

In fact the Cobens, who live in New Jersey and also have an apartment in Manhattan, don’t consider themselves “art collectors.”

Clarity, Young’s painting of a bright blue barn set partially in a shadow, initially caught Coben’s eye, though.

“He and his wife kept coming back to the booth and looking at the two paintings because they couldn’t decide which one to purchase,” Young said. “Finally, Harlan said, ‘I think I’m going to make your day. We can’t decide, so we’re going to buy both.’”

Since August, Young has corresponded a few times with the popular author via Twitter. A few weeks ago, Coben told her he was going to send an advance copy of his new novel, Six Years.

Cottage on the HIll by Carol C. Young of Fairfield

Cottage on the HIll by Carol C. Young of Fairfield

“The only thing he said is that there’s a certain painting in it that might shock you,” Young recalled.

When the book arrived in the mail, there was no note attached, Young noted.

“It was a mystery, just like his books,” she continued. “So, I just started reading.”

About one-third of the way into the novel, Jake, the protagonist, is mesmerized by a particular painting, aptly called Cottage on the Hill, that he stumbles upon at an art show in a small, rustic town.

In Jake’s voice, Coben writes on page 106, “As I kept walking, only one artist’s work gave me real pause. I stopped at a painting of a small cottage on top of a hill. There was a soft morning glow hitting the side — the pinkness that comes with the first light of day. I couldn’t tell you why but it choked me up. Maybe it was the dark windows, as though the cottage had once been warm but it was abandoned now. I don’t know. But I stood in front of the painting and felt lost and moved.”

As the story moves forward, Coben expertly weaves Cottage on the Hill into the narrative so that it plays a central role in the suspenseful ending of Six Years.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Young said. “I had absolutely no idea.”

It was while he was crafting the novel in his Manhattan apartment, where Young’s two painting are hung on either side of the fireplace, that Coben got the idea to include Cottage on the Hill in Six Years.

In much the same way Coben stumbled upon her painting, Young also whimsically came across the original cottage. It is located in Fairfield, in the neighborhood where Stratfield Road and turns into Sport Hill Road, and Young glanced at the cottage as she drove her young daughter Isabella to and from an after-school activity.

“At this certain time of day, the way the light hit it, there was a certain kind of glow around this cottage that sat at the top of a hill,” Young said.

Although she prefers to paint outdoors, Young said, there was nowhere safe to park, so she took a photograph of the dwelling to work from.

Young enjoys painting old barns, farmhouses and cottages. Exploring the interplay between light and shadows, she captures a sense of the weathered building’s history. She’s especially intrigued by memories that lie beneath the building’s facade.

“We know the landscape changes so quickly,” Young explained. “They’re always breaking down barns and old structures to build new McMansions.”

The concept behind her work and, of course, the art itself was affirmed by the first impression of Cottage on the Hill.

“It was everything I hope people will feel when they look at my work,” Young said.

Young’s artwork is on display through March 25 at the Kershner Gallery at the Fairfield Public Library.

Original paintings, prints and cards will be available for purchase at the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County’s 21st annual Art Show at Burr Mansion from Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Information may be found at cyoungfineart.com.

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