Oh hey, a book review! It’s been awhile. Don’t worry, I’m back with a good one. A great one even. I am so totally in love with B. A. Shapiro’s The Art Forger, I can’t even stand it and I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. (An admission: I read an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the book, even though it came out awhile ago. My “to read” list is a long and lengthy tome.) I mean, it is pretty much written expressly for me. Art? Yes. History? Yes. Mystery and theft? Yes and yes. Love story? YES.
You see what that little review blurb says up there on that ridiculously beautiful cover? It’s all true. The Art Forger is so twisty and gripping and fascinating. At its core, the book follows the same general plot line(s) as The Bookman’s Tale. Like, spot on. Which is great for someone who adored that book. Anyway, we have three stories weaving together: our heroine’s story today, her past, and the history of the Degas’ masterpiece that was stolen from the Gardner Museum in 1990. Claire Roth is our struggling young artist, paying (most of) her bills by reproducing famous artworks for an online store and working on her own series on the side. Obviously, she knows she can do better…but no one will give her a show. She’s been snubbed for years thanks to a handsome professor, a MoMA show, and a major scandal…one that can magically go away, hottie gallery owner and major love-interest Aiden Markel says, if she helps him with one teeny, tiny, insignificant project: forging a Degas.
That reaction you have right now? Complete disbelief? Yeah, I think everyone had that reaction. Because there’s no way in hell someone can successfully rip off a Degas and fool all the historians. But remember, Claire makes reproductions for a living…so she is an expert forger and for a one-woman show, she’d do anything. When the stolen Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, however, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Thus beginning the fabulous twists and turns of her search for the truth about the painting and its past.
I really enjoyed this read. As an art lover, I gobbled up all the art history (obviously, Degas is awesome) and found all the forgery details incredibly fascinating. I honestly knew nothing about the Gardner heist (I mean, I was 4 when it happened…). How exciting! I mean, it’s not cool that we’re missing priceless works of art. (Understatement much?) But it’s amazing that they haven’t been found. As a historical fiction lover as well, I really appreciated how Shapiro used letters from Isabella Gardner to tell the story of the original Degas and help Claire discover its hiding place. I thought it was original and helped keep the three story lines distinct and well-paced. However…as good as this book is (and it’s really, really good), parts of the plot are pretty predictable and some are completely superfluous. It’s fairly obvious what’s happened to Claire that’s made her blacklisted from the art world after a few chapters and she volunteers at a juvenile detention facility, something given a fair amount of attention in the plot without having any connection to the rest of the events. To this day, I have absolutely no idea why it was included. But in the end, none of those frustrations matter because Shapiro’s writing is excellent, the mystery of the painting is enthralling, and the suspense of will-they-or-won’t-they-be-caught keeps you turning the pages well into the night.
Rating: 8, Excellent (Memorable and above par, highly entertaining.)
As you can tell, I love historical mysteries about art or literature like The Art Forger or The Bookman’s Tale. Have you read one you loved? Share in the comments!