Friday, February 8, 2013

Masterpieces and the Pursuit of Truth

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
(Algonquin, 2012)
Format: audio cds from library (read by Xe Sands)

From Goodreads: "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."

Oh, immersing fiction that puts me in a world I never knew with characters I don't want to leave behind, how I do enjoy you. Shapiro incisively and immediately turned Claire into a reality, a narrative voice I was happy to follow as she navigated the fallout from her past and the pitfalls in her present. There is a sensuous element to this novel, in the descriptions of the painter's art, the supplies and techniques Claire uses, the way she responds to Degas's work. And the mystery of how the stolen Degas made its way to Claire's studio and the basis for her suspicion that it was a forgery were fascinating to me. My immediate trust of Claire as a narrator didn't stop me from distrusting her feelings about and trust in other people, and I cringed a few times at her failure to take a more cynical view of her interlocutors. But she forges on and creates beauty, both in her Degas reproduction and in her original work. I was so moved by her fascination with Degas that I wanted to head off to a museum myself, which isn't my normal milieu. I mean, I like Degas, who doesn't, but now I am a little more in awe of his work. And I'm definitely impressed by Shapiro's facility with language, character, and story.

One of my favorite narrators, Sands gave perfect expression to Claire's voice, by turns impatient, passionate, exasperated, and wry. I loved the flow of her narration and the distinctive character voices which made each person more solid a presence. Between the writing and the narration, this was all-too-often one of those "can't leave my car just yet, still absorbed in this story" audiobook experiences. 


  1. I loved this too, both in print and audio.

  2. I have a feeling I would have liked this better on audio. I liked it in print, but was never completely drawn in by the characters. A great audio narrator might have tipped me over the edge from like to love!

    1. It does have that great narrator magic. I'm going to Boston next month for the first time in years, and I can't wait to visit the Gardener Museum, since it really came to life for me during this book.