Book Review: The Art Forger

The Art ForgerThe Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book while I was reading it. I loved the glimpse into the world of artists, museums, and galleries that it provided. The information about painting technique was very well woven into the texture of the novel, so it never felt like an info-dump. The fictionalized history about the relationship between Isabelle Gardner and Degas was clever and plausible. I read The Art Forger for my book club, and I know we will have a great discussion about the issues it raises. What gives art its value–the beauty of the work itself, or the fame of the person who painted it? What drives people to collect art (or anything else, for that matter)? Do we see what we expect to see, or what we’re told to see, or what’s really there? All meaty topics for discussion.

However…(you could feel me building up to a however, couldn’t you?) The book is billed as a “literary thriller,” and I’m afraid it’s not successful as a thriller. After I finished, I kept thinking about the ending and I saw plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. If you haven’t yet read the book, I’ve put my discussion of the ending in the “Commebts” section because it contains a spoiler.
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4 Responses to Book Review: The Art Forger

  1. Ashley July 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Darn. I like spoilers, and I can’t see anything when I click on (view spoiler).

  2. Susan July 2, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    Sorry–I couldn’t get the “hide spoiler” code to work right, so here is the rest of the review, including the spoiler.

    At the end, to add tension, the author puts in the “crisis” that the imprisoned gallery owner, Markel, has a safe that can only be opened using his fingerprint and the guys who owned the stolen Degas want their money and are threatening to send goons into jail to cut off his finger. So Claire now has a deadline by which she must prove the Degas is a fake. But regardless of whether the Degas is a fake or not, the cops think Markel can lead them to the thieves who have the rest of the Gardener heist paintings. All Markel needs to do to save himself is offer to “set up” the bad guys when he gives them their money. And why are the bad guys suddenly in such a hurry for payment? Markel had (unpaid) custody of that painting for months while Claire was painting the copy. How did he explain that time lapse to the bad guys? I felt the author needed Markel to be in jail for a while, then needed him out (why would the cops let him out for a short time just to get money from his safe, then put him back in jail?), then needed him to be out of the way during Claire’s gallery show. I’m willing to suspend some disbelief, but the author must play fair with the reader.. If you’ve read The Art Forger, what do you think? Are my complaints valid?

  3. Judi Maxwell July 3, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I have no doubt you are right about the crisis and I think some of that occurred to me as well. But it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of this book and I believe I considered it one of the best I read all year. Part of my enjoyment was a background in painting which i thought might be a bit boring to those not familiar with the media so I only recommended it to a friend who I know wouldn’t be put off by discussions of technique. I hope the author has another book in the works.

  4. Susan July 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Yes, I found the discussion of technique quite interesting even though I have no art background whatsoever. I think it makes for a good book club book. But for people who are demanding about their mysteries and thrillers, perhaps not such a good match!