Friday, February 1, 2013

The Art Forger - B.A. Shapiro

As far as the gene pool goes in my family, all the artistic talent went to my sister.  I cannot draw a straight line.  I cannot even do justice to a coloring book.  Nor do I know jack squat about art...good from bad.  I know what I like, and that is about it.  But despite my inadequacies, I find it all fascinating.  I fantasize about being an artsy person who can properly evaluate a sculpture, or someone who could whip up a watercolor.  I'd say that would fall into the same category as my fantasy of raising sheep and making sheep cheese along the roadside.  Ha!

The moons aligned when I discovered this book and author at SIBA, and then later was informed that it was the She Reads selection for January (I know I'm late - sorry!).  I love it when this happens.

Synopsis:  In 1990, thirteen masterpieces were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  To this day, none of the paintings have ever surfaced.  This is a historical fact.  Our fictional story begins with Claire Roth, a "starving artist" who earns her living making reproductions of famous works of art.  Claire has a tainted history in the art world, so she has every right to be concerned about where her next paycheck will come from.

Then she is approached by the suave mover-and-shaker Aidan Markel, a successful gallery owner.  He would like Claire to forge a copy of a Degas painting...one stolen in the 1990 heist...in return for a significant amount of cash and a promise of a show in his gallery.  When the painting (called "After the Bath") arrives at Claire's studio, however, she suspects that this presumed original is a forgery as well.  

With a breathless pace, we take twists and turns through time.  Back to the letters of Isabella Stewart Gardner, her eccentricities, and her relationship with Degas.  Back through Claire's clouded history.  Through the process of art forgery, famous forgers throughout history, and the mystery of what actually happened to the original "After the Bath".

My thoughts:  It is a true testament to the author that she was able to plunge the reader deeply into the art world, the process of creating a painting (real and forged), and the personality and methods of Degas, and keep this art idiot on the hook.  I found it all absolutely mesmerizing, and it made me truly interested in the subject.  Not dissimilar to the way I reacted to "The Devil in the White City" and architecture.  Lots of Googling ensued.  I love it when there is enough fact intertwined with fiction that I can Google and learn.  

But the plot was also like a thriller, with shady characters, obsessive collectors, secrets and scandal, a mystery to unravel, and a pace that left me breathless.  I became almost immediately invested in Claire, who didn't always make the best decisions, but was likable and earnest and talented.  At one point, I stuck my chin out and declared that if things didn't work out for this sweet girl, I was going to be pissed.  That's right, I had her back!  She came to life for me.

The story had all the elements that make for an incredible read...great characters, mystery and intrigue, in-depth research on a complicated topic, history, some romance, and fast pacing.  This is one not to be missed!

4.5 out of 5 stars 


19 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Yay you're back! I have to say, I have yet to read a bad review of this book!

Anita said...

Welcome back. I was amazed how much I loved this book. It was such a good tale.

Julie P. said...

Missed you and your reviews so much! This was a great one to come back to!

Jackie Bailey said...

Welcome back! I have no artistic talent either :-( I wish I could knock up a sculpture - or even ice my cakes in a nice way!

Beth F said...

Welcome back!!! And great book to return with.

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad to see you back!! This book really surprised me - I thought it was fantastic!

Charlie said...

An appropriately good book for your comeback. This book sounds great, and I know what you mean about that blend of fact and fiction, it's good to know you're learning something when reading fiction.

Nise' said...

Glad you enjoyed this audio. I have it on my iPod and need to get to it. For some reason, my audio listening has taken a dive. I did just finish my first audiobook for 2013!

JoAnn said...

It's good to see you back, Sandy!! The book sounds great.. even more intrigued with the comparison to Devil in the White City.

Darlene said...

Welcome back Sandy! I'm not artistic in the least either but I have certain things I like. I do however like reading books about it. This one sounds good - yet another for my wish list.

Zibilee said...

Yay! You are back! I have this one sitting on my coffee table, and am going to be getting to it soon. I have heard raves of it all over the place. Art is not my thing either, but from what I have read, that hardly matters. Very enthusiastic and wonderful review today!!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

For some reason I thought this was nonfiction. Oh, and I'm reading The Bucolic Plague at your recommendation!

Elisabeth said...

So very glad you are back, missed ya! Nice review, and I agree the Art Forger was a very enjoyable book and a lesson not only in Degas's art but the world of forgery as well.

Kathleen said...

I'd love to read this one. I've read one or two nonfiction books on this Gardner Museum heist and found them fascinating and would love to read about art thefts, forgery, etc. P.S Welcome Back!!

Tasha B. said...

I've heard many good things about this book. And welcome back from your blogging break!

Susan said...

Since I'm also an "art idiot," I was a little reluctant to read this book, but man, I'm glad I did! I loved everything about it -- such a good book! I'm glad others agree :)

patebooks said...

Happy you're back. I liked The Art Forger, too, but perhaps not as much as you. The heroine was sympathetic but so wrongheaded. I suppose I should blog about it and and a couple others I missed along the way. Have you read "Indiscretion'' yet? Not sure how to handle that one. Gatsbyesque. kinda.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

Welcome back Sandy! I hope you realize from all these lovely comments that you have been missed. :)

You know how I felt about this one. SUCH a good novel!!

Carrie K. said...

I keep seeing rave reviews for this one - really need to find time for it!