The backstory: The Art Forger is one of my book club's picks for January (we meet every other month and read two books.)
The basics: Claire Roth is an accomplished painter who creates and sells reproductions (legal) of famous paintings. Twenty-five years ago, there was an art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (the heist happened in real life). Now an art dealer brings one of the stolen paintings to Claire to ask her to forge (illegal) it.
My thoughts: The Art Forger had been on my TBR since it came out, so when my book club picked it, I was excited to finally read it. I opted to listen to it on audio, and the experience was a great one. I know a fair amount about art history, so I particularly loved this exploration into the art world, both historically through the heist paintings and Claire's reproduction work, and into the contemporary art world, where she struggled to find fame. Shapiro goes in depth into the details of art and forgery, and I learned a lot from this book.
Shapiro also digs into the history and cleverly twists real events into a satisfying fictional tale. The heist from the Gardner museum is real, but Shapiro invents a fifth "After the Bath" painting that was also stolen. This painting give her immense literary license while tying the fiction closely to reality.
There are multiple storylines at play in this book, and they allow the story of both Claire and the missing paintings to unfold with mystery. Still, the present dominates the story, and the flashbacks to Claire's recent past, as well as excerpts from Isabella Stewart Gardner's letters, add more depth to the novel.
I'm looking forward to my book club's discussion about art and its value. I'm curious to hear how other people felt about the details on painting technique, as well as the combination of thrills with deep questions about art and value.
The verdict: The Art Forger is both a thrilling mystery and a deep exploration of the art world. It questions the value and worth, both monetary and not, of art. Shapiro successfully infuses an intricate plot with these big questions, and she accomplished both aspects in this story well.
Audio thoughts: The Art Forger was my fist time listening to narrator Xe Sands, and I loved her narration. She captured the varied emotions of Claire beautifully, and I appreciated her subtle voice distinctions, particularly for the male characters.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 10 hours (385 pages)
Publication date: October 23, 2012
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Art Forger from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit B.A. Shapiro's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
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