Book Event

Monday, September 17, 2012

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

In The Art Forger, Clarie Roth is plagued by the worst deja vu since Bill Murray was tormented by "I Got You Babe" in Groundhog Day.  Throughout B.A. Shapiro's thrilling novel, poor Claire must be constantly thinking that she's been there and done that.  Art forgeries, prisons, and untrustable men are leitmotifs that are vitally important in this work.

Claire Roth is a Boston artist with baggage.  Through flashbacks, we find out that she's an artist in disgrace, the art world has given her the moniker "The Great Pretender."   In an altruistic moment, Claire helps out her depressive boyfriend Isaac, who has artist's block, by creating a painting for him to pass off as his own for an exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art.  Fortunately or unfortunately, her painting is so good that it becomes a tremendous success and Isaac gets all the acclaim.  Isaac becomes a huge celebrity in the art world and breaks up with Claire, leaving her feeling betrayed and angry.  Isaac refuses to admit that Claire is the painter of his masterpiece and she is unable to get the art experts to acknowledge her as the creator.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, Claire ends up making a faustian deal with Aiden Markel, the owner of a prestigious gallery on Boston's fashionable Newbury Street.  After Claire is disgraced by the Isaac incident, the art world blacklists her so she ends up working for an art reproduction company and develops an expertise in making Degas copies.  Markel has somehow acquired one of the Degas masterpieces that had been stolen in the unsolved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.  Markel wants to take advantage of Claire's skills by having her paint a copy of the stolen Degas so that he can sell that one to the buyer and thus keep the real painting in order to return it to the museum.  In return for her help, Claire will receive a substantial sum of money, the honor of having been involved in getting a stolen masterpiece returned to the world, and most importantly, the opportunity to have her own art show at Markel's gallery, something she has always dreamed of, a way of showing the art world that she was misjudged and that she truly is talented.  Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

After the dust settles, Claire ends up on a quest for the real Degas (the one in the museum isn't what it seems) in order to clear Markel and herself of the charges brought against them.  The forgery theme recurs throughout several of the storylines which are integrated beautifully by the end of the book.  The Art Forger is my favorite book for 2012, I highly recommend it.