On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art, today worth 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.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting - a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum - in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire's studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late 19th century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.
©2012 Barbara Shapiro (P)2012 HighBridge Company
"A clever, twisty novel about art, authenticity, love, and betrayal. B. A. Shapiro knows about Degas, and she knows about art theft and forgery, and she also knows how to tell a gripping story." (Tom Perrotta)
This a page turner throughout: a fascinating, imperiled protagonist, plenty of twists, and good pacing. The background on art forgery, Boston, and museum politics is enlightening and never extraneous to the character's perspective. As an oil painter, I also appreciated the artistic vision of the characters, as well as the personal history of famous painters which wove throughout the story.
Not a towering literary feat, but a good strong story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Wonderful writing about impressionist art and forgery techniques. Art lovers will particularly like this book, but even if you don't think of yourself as an art love you might want to try this---it could well turn you into a fan of the impressionists. Highly recommended.
On March 18, 1990, two thieves broke into the The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and stole thirteen work of art, including five works by Edgar Degas - four drawings and a painting. This book imagines the trajectory of the painting, described as one in Degas' Bathers series. [The painting taken from the Gardner was not in the Bathers series.]
Claire Roth is a professional art forger, and works for the fictional reproductions. Her specialty is Degas, although she can copy other masters and genres. Claire is an artist in her own right, but she has been a pariah in the art community for three years. The reason she has been cast out is a key part of the story.
Claire is aproached by art gallery owner Adrien Markel to make a reproduction of the stolen Degas painting, and Markel promises her a one woman show in exchange.
Edward Degas, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Gardner's great grand niece are key players.
I would listen to the narrator of this book, X.E. Sands, read a grocery list. She is just that good, and she was an ideal choice to narrate this book.
I found that the plot, although definitely a tangled web, was predictable in the last third or so. I would have liked to have known more about Gardner herself, and I hope B.A. Shapiro writes more about her, either fiction or non-fiction.
This is B.A. Shapiro's first novel. It's made several best seller lists, and is an Indie Book Dealer Best of 2012. I learned more about oil painting than I ever expected to know - or even thought I'd be interested in. The book isn't teachy, but I learned a lot.
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Never without an audible book on my phone!
This book had all the elements of a good story...interesting premise, intriguing characters, mystery, romance, etc. I liked the foray into the art world from an alternative perspective (forgery). It wasn't perfect...the characters weren't as deep as I would have liked and, of course, their morals were a bit off, and there were parts that were not plausible. But, all in all, it was an enjoying read.
Alternative art perspective.
She read the main character as tired and depressed.
The main character, Claire. I would want to know what in her childhood, upbringing caused her to be a "pretender."
I very much liked this story however I almost stopped listening in the beginning as the narrator sounded very whiney and annoying. If you stick with it past the first few chapters the narration improves though could be better.
It kept me interested, not necessarily on edge of seat.
Isabella Gardner and her museum are real. The focus of the book, a Degas painting, is total fiction based on fact. Degas did do a series of bathers but not this one. If you Google the painting you are referred to B.A. Shapiro! Years ago I was overcome at the sight Renior's Luncheon of the Boating Party when Ms Shapiro attempts to describe first seeing a Degas painting my own experience allowed me to understand what was happening. I never have been able to express those feeling and emotions experienced at that first viewing of the painting and had a lighter heart realizing Ms Shapiro couldn't do it either. Some of Ms Shapiro's facts I question but art and its study are subjective and it didn't hurt me to listen to a different point of view. I am an avid art lover including the Impressionists but if you are not extremely interested in art perhaps this book is not for you. As for the interpersonal relationships and who done it quality they are only OK. I hesitate either to recommend or not recommend this book - sorry!
Here's what I liked about this book: There weren't a lot of coincidences, not a lot of aha moments, and not a very forgiving attitude toward the main character.
Here's what I didn't like: The main character, the story's lack of depth, and the narration.
Regarding the narration: I felt the narrator's voice was too old for the character, too shaky, too verge-of-tears at all times. For someone who is neither an artist nor a collector, I needed to care about the characters to care about the story, and the narration left me wishing for a younger, hipper, and (while notably wronged and weak after her experiences) savvier person to take me through the processes.
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
This is a yummy read. It went all kinds e of unexpected places and reminds us that the art world is no better than the people in it. I had some problems with the heroine. She suffers seriously from a case of the emperor;s clothes. There are some true things you just can't say. But the bits about Degas are delicious, wicked and very fun.
I took one star off because I could see where the end was going , but it did manage to give it a good unexpected twist. It's a very good read.
The story line is excellent and original - but I mostly napped or fast-forwarded through the Part 1, and the action doesn't really start until Part 2. I usually yawn through interludes where old correspondence is read when such letter-reading interludes are employed merely to add texture. In this case, I became tired of listening to Ms. Gardner's shopping escapades and travels with brand name artists and art critics and I didn't think it mattered to hear about the details of Degas life as seen by someone who knew him. Other readers might love this, so it's just one of my proclivities, or negativities, as the case may be.
There are some sexual diversions, which are brief and succinct, thankfully, because this is not chic-fic, but there are also some passages which are outright pollyanna-ish - there could have been a better way to expand on the moments that the protagonist is finally becoming successful, instead of having her sound like Dorothy clicking her heels, "not in Kansas" any more.
I also think that including sex and romance with the "deal with the devil" is predictable and overdone, but perhaps that helps sell books and to fund the ongoing flow of audiobooks for our consumption and enjoyment, who can figure, except editors and marketing gurus.
The writer masters the true-crime parts of the story effectively, mixing the facts of the actual art heist smoothly with fictional inventions and story arc.
I generally like Xe Sands as a narrator - but for this book I thought she sounded too girlish and neither ironic nor "noir" enough for this story. Her voice occasionally gives an innocence, sensuality and enthusiasm which I didn't think worked with the plot line.
I am giving this a 4 instead of a 5 because of the disconnect between story and reader. I wish I could give it a 4.5, because said disconnect is not a huge factor and only occasionally affected my listening groove.
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