Book Event

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Art Therapy

Praised by both critics and readers, B.A. Shapiro's thrilling first novel, The Art Forger, focused on a young female artist embroiled in a forgery scheme.  In Shapiro's latest work, The Muralist, the focus is also on a young woman with artistic ambitions, but this time the stakes are even greater.  The main character in this story, Alizee Benoit, is fighting for her family and her sanity.

This historical novel begins with Alizee's great niece, Danielle, discovering paintings that are stylistically similar to her great aunt's work.  As Danielle attempts to prove the paintings are Alizee's, her research helps illuminate her hazy knowledge of her mysterious relation.  Alizee had disappeared during the years leading up to World War II and no one knows what had happened to her. Danielle undertakes the challenge which takes her through many twists and turns, and several startling discoveries.

The main focus of the book is on Alizee and her struggle to create her artwork and remaining sane while her family is trying to escape the powder keg of Europe as the Nazis rise to power.  She's already coping with anxieties and other mental issues due to a previous trauma, so this new responsibility of trying to help her family escape to the United States is pushing her over the edge.  The lines between reality and illusion are blurred, and there are times you don't know if something is really happening to Alizee or if she's delusional.

Even though Alizee's character is fictional, there are several historical individuals she interacts with such as groundbreaking artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning.  She is portrayed as a pioneer of abstract expressionism, someone with great potential and talent who inspired and influenced these artists to create this new style of art.

This book is quite suspenseful as it builds momentum and heads towards what appears to be an ominous conclusion, up until the last minute one is unsure of Alizee's fate (I'm surely not telling!). Issues such as is creativity associated with mental illness and having to choose between one's career versus one's family are at the heart of this book.  It's got a different feel than the Art Forger but should appeal to readers who gravitate towards books with strong female characters.

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