How did I miss The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro? I must have been in the fog of school but somehow I hadn't even heard of it. But my librarian recommended it, and we tend to have similar taste, so I picked it up late last week. I could not put it down. And I mean that almost literally. My husband and I were at a wedding this weekend, and I was tempted to get in a chapter or two while we waited for the ceremony to start. I didn't, but I did finish the book last night.
I'm a sucker for books about art, anyway. Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Goldfinch. And books about true-life events; The Art Forger centers around one painting stolen from the never-recovered stolen paintings from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. And I love a mystery.
This book is one of those rare and treasured mixes of smart and page-turning. The characters are fully rendered and perfectly imperfect. The plot is page-turning and not over-blown. Claire, a recently graduated artist with a tarnished reputation, gets an offer she can't refuse--create a copy of a Degas painting and land her own show at a lucrative gallery. Without overstating its case, the novel looks at the origin of the value of art (is something valuable because of the aesthetics or because of who painted it?). And while this is a mystery, Shapiro avoids a lot of the often-hyperbolic techniques of damsel in distress and other less-than-convincing scenarios. Instead, this book is more about the moral crisis Claire faces, and what she's willing to do to save her soul.
This is well-crafted and interesting and truly a page-turner and it was an absolute treat to read!