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books and reading

The Collector’s Apprentice

This book is my second by BA Shapiro. I have also read The Art Forger and really enjoyed that. I’m not an artist in any way, but I do have a working knowledge of art, artists, periods, and have studied some important works through my education. And even if art isn’t your thing, these books are still excellent stories.

From Goodreads:

It’s the summer of 1922, and nineteen-year-old Paulien Mertens finds herself in Paris—broke, disowned, and completely alone. Everyone in Belgium, including her own family, believes she stole millions in a sophisticated con game perpetrated by her then-fiancé, George Everard. To protect herself from the law and the wrath of those who lost everything, she creates a new identity, a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby, and sets out to recover her father’s art collection, prove her innocence—and exact revenge on George.

When the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Dr. Edwin Bradley offers Vivienne the perfect job, she is soon caught up in the Parisian world of post-Impressionists and expatriates—including Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, with whom Vivienne becomes romantically entwined. As she travels between Paris and Philadelphia, where Bradley is building an art museum, her life becomes even more complicated: George returns with unclear motives . . . and then Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.

B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own. In The Collector’s Apprentice, she gives us an unforgettable tale about the lengths to which people will go for their obsession, whether it be art, money, love, or vengeance.

This book was one that, even though it isn’t really a thriller, I couldn’t put it down and wanted to see how Vivienne manages this double life. The art descriptions are fantastic, the story moves quickly, and Vivienne is a great heroine.

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books and reading

The Art Forger

This book was recommended to me by a friend, and when it went on sale for the Kindle, I went ahead and bought it. For the 2018 book challenge, I needed a book involving a heist, and this one is kinda sorta along those lines, so I counted it anyway. And I’m the first to admit that I have a very limited knowledge of art. I am not an artist. I can’t draw a stick figure. I appreciate art, and I know what Impressionism is and who Degas is, so I guess that was enough, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The premise is that Claire (sorry if I spelled it wrong…I listened to this one) Roth is an expert forger. She does it legally through a reproduction website, but she is approached by an art dealer friend to copy an original Degas. The problem is that this Degas was stolen from a museum twenty some years ago and no one has seen it since. Claire can’t resist, so she begins her reproduction, however, as she looks closer at the painting, she begins to realize this might not actually be a Degas. Down the rabbit hole she goes, digging for the truth.

The story is told from Claire’s perspective and you really learn a lot about how to forge a painting. Honestly, I have no idea if it is all true, but it certainly sounds plausible. And while the Degas in question throughout the novel is fictitious, the process of recreating it was still fascinating. The story shifts from present day, to three years ago, to letters from an art collector from the 1800s. And although the source of the letters is never revealed so you never really know why they are in the book, they do let the reader into a part of the story that would never have been uncovered.

Don’t be intimidated by this book if you aren’t an art person. You really don’t have to know much about it to still enjoy the book. I was able to follow along just fine. The story is just as much of a mystery as it is about art, and well worth the time to read it.