ARC, Books

Book 135: The Art Forger – B.A. Shapiro

My original plan was to go right into reading another book from my Mount TBR challenge list, but as I’m on a stay-cation at Tom’s parents and I didn’t bring the book I had to do some fast thinking on what I could read. I looked through the local library Kindle books and didn’t find anything and remembered I had a NetGalley waiting that would be a light, fun read. I’m definitely glad I decided to read it. It also doesn’t hurt that I feel justified reading a ‘fun’ book as it’s a galley I wanted to review and I’m not just faffing about.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher. This response to the novel is my honest opinion and I did not receive any compensation for it. Algonquin Books is releasing The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro on October 23, 2012 of this year.

I requested The Art Forger for two reasons. It tangentially collected two of the places I love together. It’s a small publisher in Chapel Hill, NC (whoop! Go Heels! God I miss that place.) and occurs Boston (where I live and work). It also doesn’t hurt that it’s about one of the greatest legends of Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, and mentions all sorts of local places and streets that I am familiar with (even if I can’t afford to live anywhere near there).

Overall, I really liked the book. It was well written and definitely well researched and Shapiro’s writing was completely approachable. I found myself flying through the chapters and read the book in less than 12 hours (stay-cation remember?). It’s a great summer/beach read but it is definitely more than that with its art history and technical detail and research. To be honest, it reminded me of a less serious, less conspiracy theory version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and honestly, I preferred The Art Forger.

The protagonist, Claire Roth, is both relatable and mostly believable. She’s got interesting friends (who could’ve used a bit more depth) and a fascinating job and Shapiro wrote her incredibly well. If I had a problem with her as a character it was her naivety – I do believe there are people that are that naive and sheltered out there, but it just didn’t quite ring right for what she did and was capable of doing.

As I mentioned above, I thoroughly enjoyed the walks through Back Bay and the Fenway area of Boston and even the mention of the atrocious behemoth that is Government Center. You could definitely tell Shapiro has spent time here (she’s teaches creative writing at Northeastern) and she even gets in a mention of the college kids which are unavoidable in Boston.

There were two things that I didn’t enjoy about the book. The first was the sex scenes, I mean they are well written (much better than most men do), but they came across almost as an after thought and were thrown in for a bit of drama. However, I know I’m a prude and they weren’t too bad so I’m sure they’re perfectly fine. The second thing I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to was the ending. It could have been stronger and slightly less predictable. Perhaps it’s the way I read books, but I guessed on Claire’s second visit to Belle’s relative where the piece was, but Shapiro shows her talent as a writer in forcing me to second guess whether I was correct in my assumption by throwing an architectural wrench into the story. Perhaps it was the quickness with which I read the ending, but it happens so fast and in such a turn-around that it wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

Recommendation: Definitely check it out. It was a fun and quick well written well researched read. I enjoyed it and think it speaks to a broad audience not just art and culture fanatics.

Opening Line: “I step back and scrutinize the paintings. There are eleven, although I have hundreds, maybe thousands.”

Closing Line: “And no matter what happens to me or to my work, no matter how big the commissions or how great the museums, I suppose I’ll never know.” (Whited out.)


5 thoughts on “Book 135: The Art Forger – B.A. Shapiro”

  1. The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum certainly seems like a great inspiration for a book. (I love the fact that anyone named Isabella gets in free!) I wasn’t familiar with the heist before visiting the museum, but the air of mystery produced by the refusal of anyone working at the museum to discuss what happened made it seem extra intriguing.


    1. I knew about the heist, but only minimal details. It was eerie to see the empty frames. One of the great things about the book was the dig at the new ‘expansion’ of the museum which I thought was humorous (they’ve created a new glass structure for rotating exhibits, performances, and shop space). That is interesting about no one wanting to discuss it, probably so as not to show up in the press or novels like this one 😀


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