Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Julie's Review: The Art Forger

Summary: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

Review: The Art Forger is a thriller with a deep understanding of what it takes to be an artist and painter. So much so that I found myself a little in over my head with it at times. Sure I took the requisite Art History class but never went into detail like Ms. Shapiro does with Claire and her skills. Ms. Shapiro takes great care to explain the way that Degas painted and the way that Claire paints. At times, I felt myself buried in details but unlike some books, I knew that there was a reason for this level of description. It is about 1/4 of the way through the book where it starts to pick up the pace. You begin to wonder how deceitful Aiden was with Claire. Was he? Why is she not being fully honest with him as well? Are they both self-preserving?

Claire is a wonderful character to get to know. She is not without her flaws, which makes her that much more enjoyable to go on the journey with. She has a tainted past that is slowly revealed through chapters that flashback to three years prior. It isn't that you can't figure out what happened to Issac but it's Claire's actions to right a wrong that are intriguing.

Sure there were times when I thought that Claire was a bit out of her realm and might be in over her head but I loved that she was determined to get to the truth. Initially it wasn't just for herself, but in the end it turned out that she needed the truth to be told as much as anyone. 

I can't imagine the research that Ms. Shapiro had to go through to get the accuracy of Degas' painting techniques and those that Claire and Issac used as well. Not to mention the ins and outs of the purchase and sale of art, both legal and illegal. There is a statistic in the book that if true, it shocking to me, that as many as 40% of what we think are true masterpieces are really masterful forgeries!!! Wow!!

The Art Forger is a stunning and thrilling debut novel. It has piqued my interest to go into Chicago and visit The Art Institute again. I was there a lot during college. If you are looking for a different type of thriller, then this novel is for you.

Final Take: 4.75/5



Jenn January 16, 2013 at 7:23 AM  

Sounds like something that needs to be put on my TBR list!

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