Monday, November 16, 2015

Julie's Review: The Muralist

 photo The Muralist_zpspu75ggsc.jpg

Author: B.A. Shapiro
Series: None
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Intriguing look at mental illness and art
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary:  When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?   Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of New York’s art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of Abstract Expressionism.  As she did in her bestselling novel The Art Forger, B. A. Shapiro tells a gripping story while exploring provocative themes. In Alizée and Danielle she has created two unforgettable women, artists both, who compel us to ask: What happens when luminous talent collides with unstoppable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world?

Review: While The Muralist floats back and forth between the late 1930s and early 1940s and present day, it really is Alizee's story even if Dani makes appearances. What I found intriguing was how manic Alizee got when she was being creative. What I found fascinating was how some scientists have linked mental illness with creative people. I have made a note to investigate this a bit further. I was hoping for a deeper look into the beginning of the abstract movement and those who were involved but they were really cursory to Alizee's story. It was about her journey to help those that were being affected by Nazi Germany, including those in her family.

Her great-niece is the one who starts to uncover the link between Alizee and the great abstract artists of America.  Dani has always been extremely curious about her great-aunt after her grand-pere especially because he had some of her paintings. So when she discovers what she thinks are part of her great-aunt's painting, she goes into obsessive mode, seeking out anything that will connect her.

Most of the novel is told through Alizee's eyes with Dani's point of view filling in the gaps. What we find is an extremely talented  young artist who starts to suffer from the stress of worrying about  her family is Nazi occupied France. As the war gets worse, Alizee starts to lose her control on reality but her painting is inspired as she takes current events to heart.

I always find it interesting how the artistic community is very small and intertwined especially during the beginning of great art movements. How they develop bonds and feed off of each others abilities and inspirations can mean that a lot of their art is similar in likeness.

While I enjoyed the mystery of what happened to Alizee but the ending was fairly easy to figure out.  This is a great novel but in my opinion Art Forger is a stronger novel. If you haven't read that one, then you must start there.



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