Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

You will never look at Art the same way again!

The largest art heist in history is still unsolved (true story). In 1990, 13 masterpieces - including works from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas - were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.   Today the stolen pieces would be worth over $500 million. Two men dressed as police officers bound and gagged the museum's guards before making off with the paintings, not to be heard from again, despite intense investigations into everyone from the mafia to the Vatican.

THE ART FORGER (a work of fiction) opens with Claire Roth, a talented young struggling artist whose scandalous past has landed her on a black list of sorts in the art world.  She can't sell her work, she can't win art competitions, and her only income is from painting reproductions for a web-retailer.

In comes Aiden Markel, a handsome and powerful art broker, who has his own Gallery in Boston.  He makes her an offer she can't refuse, but it would mean her making a deal with the devil.   Can she do what he's asking of her?  What could possibly go wrong?

After the first chapter, I was completely engrossed in this book.  I don't know much about art, but any dancer who has ever donned a pair of Pointe shoes is familiar with Degas' work, so I had enough knowledge not to feel intimidated.  Actually, a reader doesn't need to know anything about art to enjoy the book.  No worries, you'll know more than you ever thought you could after you turn the last page!

I was fascinated by this story, the peeling back of layers of the past, following a trail of clues to the future.  There was such romance to the story, and not just the man/woman romance, but the flashbacks into Isabella Gardner's time as well.  Her friendships with famous artists were legendary, as was her quirky behavior, especially for her time!  B.A. Shapiro conjures up the most delicious letters Bella wrote to her niece!

For someone who has never in my life picked up a paintbrush (fingerpainting was as far as I got) I was riveted by the techniques of painters and forgers.  I don't know much about the author, but in 300 pages she paints us a picture as clear as if I were watching someone painting it in front of me.  I could see preparations and the painting in each stage of production so vividly I have to look back through the book to make sure there weren't actual photographs.  Shapiro's writing is genius in this way.

Easily one of my favorites of 2012, if you haven't read THE ART FORGER yet, you must add it to your short list.  Magnificent!

Book Extras:
Author Website, Twitter, Facebook
Algonquin Book Site

About the Book:

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616201320
  • ISBN-13: 978-161620132

About the Author: (from author's website)
B.A. Shapiro is the author of The Art Forger, a literary thriller about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that spans three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. Writing as Barbara Shapiro, she is also the author of five suspense novels The Safe Room, Blind Spot, See No Evil, Blameless and Shattered Echoes as well as the non-fiction book, The Big Squeeze. She lives in Boston and teaches creative writing at Northeastern University.

Upcoming Author Appearances:

January 23, 2013: New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, MA.
February 1, 2013: Northshire Books in Manchester, VT.
February 14, 2013: Savannah Book Festival in Savannah, GA.

*Many thanks to Algonquin Books for providing a copy of this book for review. 

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