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Publisher's Summary

In her latest captivating novel, nationally best-selling author Fiona Davis takes listeners into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, 50 years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and 25-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist". Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded - even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter - Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly 50 years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece - an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

©2018 Fiona Davis (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Fiona Davis in The Masterpiece continues a winning formula that showcases the stories behind New York City landmarks...a hard-to-resist and a timely reminder that for far too long the work done by women has been dismissed and disrespected.” (USA Today)

"Fiona Davis achieves a world in which fictional characters and real life seamlessly meld.... The Masterpiece is a beautifully crafted, meticulously researched story." (New York Journal of Books)

“Davis has written another paean to a New York City landmark. Historical fiction fans will love the compelling dual narrators and time periods perfectly captured in this novel based on the history of one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world.” (Library Journal, starred review) 

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

If you want a novel that has everything...

This novel left me with a thirst for knowledge. I have never really been curious about Grand Central or Art in all honesty, but I was left so intrigued by what I've learned here. This story was concluded perfectly but I desire more information. I don't give 5 star ratings often, but when I do, its because a novel has stuck with me or opened my mind to learn more. This novel has done both.
I am not a huge Historical Fiction fan; however, this is the second book by Fiona Davis that I have read and fell in love with. I love reading stories set in two different time frames, with several different characters meeting in some way at the end. The reveals are amazing. I was blindsided near the end.

This novel has everything, History, Mystery, Romance, Heartbreak, and Culture.

I would recommend this book to everyone. There is something for literally everyone to fall in love with.

I would also like to point out that this novel has several strong women protagonists and expresses the women's rights and movements without becoming overpowering.

Fiona Davis is one of those authors that I will read anything she writes without even knowing anything about the book. She is just that amazing.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Genie
  • CANDLER, NC, United States
  • 08-19-18

Disappointing

This was not as good as her first book about the Dakota House, which included more historical information. Instead, this one focused on too much romance, heartbreak, and drama. The plot was also rather implausible.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • JH
  • 01-16-19

It could have been a good book

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, that's is why it has 2 stars. The book was a soap opera, the story dragged on forever....I have to make myself finish the book for my book club :(

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just Ok

Back story is very interesting. I go through Grand Central Terminal so I was interested in the history. But the fiction rendition is just Ok.

The narrator is not my cup of tea. Too breathy and stilted.

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Good story - interesting history

Great historical fiction. Interesting enough that I want to look up the facts & visit Grand Central Terminal (saying Grand Central Station is technically & actually incorrect.) Yes, I feel cool now. Thanks.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Mixed feelings

I would have enjoyed this story much more with a different narrator. I was so annoyed by this one that it got in the way of the story, which was actually quite interesting, if a bit hard to follow. The characters were interesting but the narration made them sound a bit whiny and snarky even when I don’t think they were supposed to be. There wasn’t enough differentiation in the voices so it was hard to follow who was speaking.

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Fascinating and compelling

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is a historical novel set in New York City from the 1920s to the 1970s and encompasses separate, but connected stories of two women fighting through unfairness and injustice in order to find their power and sense of pride.

After a mastectomy and a divorce that followed, Virginia Clay finds employment at the information booth in Grand Central Terminal. While exploring, she made an unexpected discovery in an abandoned area within the landmark—a hidden painting. Virginia was desperate to learn the history of the painting and the artist behind it. Equally compelling her was her need to fight for Grand Central Terminal to be saved and retain its landmark status.
Clara Darden was an artist who worked at the Grand Central School of Art, a prominent commercial illustrator and a painter unrecognized for her talent due to her gender. Her life was riddled with lost loves, prejudice and fleeting moments of bliss.
Virginia, in the 1970s, hit many of the same roadblocks Clara came up against in the 1920s and 30s, demonstrating how not much had changed in the way of gender inequality. Both women were at the mercy of the men in their lives, but both persevered in spite of them.
Fiona Davis created a fictionalized story around real-life events and locations. Well researched and beautifully written, the book held my interest from start to finish.
Cassandra Campbell narrated The Masterpiece with her usual skill for storytelling. I’ve listened to many books by this narrator and I knew I would enjoy this one as well. She’s a great talent and has a soothing voice.

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Yes, please.

Can't remember the last time I waxed nostalgic about Grand Central. Made me want to visit with fresh eyes.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Somewhat entertaining

Having recently read/listened to The Rules of Civility, I thought I'd really enjoy this. I had a hard time liking any of the characters and the narrator didn't help. I actually liked the last quarter of the book better than the first three quarters but I would jump to recommend it.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Boring!

Finally stopped listening with 3 long, boring hours to go. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it just droned on and on. Cassandra Campbell is a highly rated narrator, but I have never understood why. She has a sing- song voice that I find unbearable irritating. Her voice combined with a terribly boring story....it’s unbelievable that I lasted so long.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • S. Jones
  • 09-07-18

Another lovely historical NY tale from Fiona Davis

I’m a fan of Fiona Davis’ historical novels and seem to choose to listen to them on audio. Always enjoy the dual timescales of her books and the strong female characters who are usually facing up to their problems’. Really enjoyed learning about the art world and the history of Grand Central station. Plenty of twists in the tale along the way too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hiro
  • 08-29-18

‘The Masterpiece’ by Fiona Davis

When I found this is a historical fiction about Grand Central School of Art founded by John Singer Sargent in the 20s, I immediately decided to download from Audible. The reader is my favourite Cassandra Campbell. That helps.

The author adapted a well-trodden dual timeline format. And I think it works very well here.

The story itself is fascinating, very clever mixture of the fictional and the real.
Although some subplots are too contrived, I enjoyed the book. As usual, it’s read brilliantly.