THE ART FORGER is the story of Claire Roth, a very talented artist who has, over the last few years, suffered through the consequences of choices she made while still an art student in Boston. Her involvement with her famous art professor, Issac Culliun, led to the devastation of her budding art career. But this story isn't just about Claire. It's also about a famous masterpiece painted by Edgar Degas that was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 along with a dozen other historic works of art, of which none have been recovered.
Claire's story begins a few years after her relationship with her professor-lover has ended, but we get glimpses as to how it all fell apart and why she is now looked at with disdain throughout the art world in Boston. At the same time, we are treated to a lesson in art history through letters written by Isabella Gardner to her niece, Amelia, in the late 1800's. The letters give many clues to the origin of After the Bath, Degas' painting that is at the center of this intriguing plot. Adding another layer to this story is Claire's romance with, Aiden, a man she first met during her days with Isaac. Though she has legitimate issues with trust, she takes Aiden up on an offer that he describes as 'a good deed', but as time goes on, Claire fears it could also land her in prison.
This book was a fantastic surprise! As soon as I began reading, I was completely caught up in the story. I liked that alternating chapters took me back in time and explained what had happened with Isaac and how Claire became black-listed from the world of art that she loved so much. The romance with Isaac, and then later with Aiden, was a perfect balance to the mystery of After the Bath and it's origin. I truly enjoyed the history of the painting and it's owner, Isabella Gardner.
There are many things I loved about this book.First and foremost, the story and the writing were superb. I've seen this book listed as mystery and suspense, and while it has both of those elements, it is not what you'd call a seat-of-your-pants thrill ride, although it will keep you completely enthralled. What I found fascinating about this book was the art. I am not well versed in art at all, but I became so interested that I even spent time researching Degas and his paintings and even learned about art forgery. I found the process fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed that part of the story as well.
Claire was a very likable character and I had no trouble at all relating to her. There was also just the right mix of supporting characters who helped give Claire authenticity and made her more personable. I loved her friendship with Ric and felt the genuine bond between them. I was also very happy with the ending of this story. Nearing the final pages, I had no idea how it would turn out, but I was completely satisfied.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but I don't want to take away any of the suspense and mystery of this novel by summarizing too much. All I can say is, you must read it for yourself to fully appreciate this fascinating story.
Once again, Algonquin Books has delivered a novel that has become a favorite of mine and has made me a dedicated fan of Barbara Shapiro. I'd also like to thank She Reads Book Club for inviting me to participate in this month's selection. THE ART FORGER was a terrific pick and a great way for me to start a wonderful new venture this year with them. More reviews by other members of the club can be found here. I encourage you to read them.
THE ART FORGER
Author: B.A. Shapiro
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: October 2012
Pages: 368 pp
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5