Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Nov. 3 2015)
Synopsis: In 1940, American painter Alizee Benoit vanishes in New York City amid personal and political turmoil. No one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her artistic patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who while working at Christie’s auction house uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind recently found works by those now-famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?
Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of today’s art world and the beginnings of the vibrant school of Abstract Expressionism, bringing to life two unforgettable women and forcing us to ask timeless, provocative questions: What happens when luminous talent collides with inexorable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world? And to what lengths should a person go to thwart evil?
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I was originally drawn to this book for the topic of historical fiction – one of my favourites. And I am so happy I picked up this book. Shapiro intertwined art and war in a masterful way, throwing in a mystery with just enough intrigue to make it a very hard book to put down.
The alternating past and present helped to build suspense and keep the story moving forward. There were times where I found the book to be a little too “art-sy”, but the mystery kept me moving forward – I needed to know what happened to Alizee Benoit. While I enjoyed the characters, I found that there were a lot of characters in general, and a lot that didn’t differentiate themselves well. This created some confusion in some parts of the book as I found it hard to create the characters in my head.
The main thing I enjoyed about this novel was the different approach than what I am used to – this book had an American centric approach (not European) and focused on the art world, which was very highly affected by World War II. This is a book I would recommend to fans for historical fiction – especially in regards to art and cultural history.
*I received this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review*