The First Last Tuesday Book Club Meets Here Today

Welcome to the first Last Tuesday Book Club! For those of you who may not know, I’ve started a new book club on my blog. On the last Tuesday of each month, we will discuss the book we’ve read for that month.

The book for March was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro.

For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, here’s a quick synopsis:

You may recall reading in the papers back in 1990 that paintings worth over 500 million dollars were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in a stunning heist that still baffles investigators today. The paintings were by such masters as Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and Manet. The Art Forger is a fictional account of what happened following the heist.

Claire Roth, a struggling artist living in Boston, makes a meager living by reproducing famous paintings. She works for an online retailer of artistic reproductions and she is very good at her job.

Claire is somewhat of an outcast in the art community for reasons that are explained in the book. Because of her lesser stature in the art world, she is eager to score an opportunity for a one-woman art show in a famous Boston gallery. The trouble is, in exchange for being invited to do the show, she has to agree to copy one of the masterpieces allegedly stolen during the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist. When she becomes convinced the “original” which hung in the museum was actually a forgery, she becomes deeply entrenched in a web of deceit that could spell the end of her art career.

I enjoyed the book. It offers plenty of food for thought about the reasons certain artworks become “famous” or “classic.” Is it because of the inherent value of a piece of art or is it because a famous person painted it?

I’ve curated some discussion questions from several places online, and I’ve sprinkled in some of my own, too. Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below and ask any questions you  may have.

  • Do you think Claire shares any of the blame for Isaac Cullion’s suicide?
  • Do you find Claire to be a sympathetic character? How about Aiden?
  • Can you imagine yourself in a position where you want something so badly that you would do anything–even something unethical or illegal–to get it?
  • Do you think Aiden loves Claire? Why do you have that opinion?
  • What about the lies Aiden and Claire tell each other, or the corollary of that, what about the truths they keep from each other–do you think they can love with that level of deception toward each other?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Why are Claire’s works suddenly very valuable at the end of the book? They’re the same paintings that haven’t sold for years–is it their intrinsic beauty that makes them valuable, or the artist’s reputation, or something else?
  • Did you leave a review of the book online? 🙂

I must confess that as of the writing of this post, I haven’t reviewed the book online yet. I’ve got to put that on my to-do list. I hope you enjoyed reading and discussing The Art Forger. If you have any suggestions for a May book club selection, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, the selection for April is Stolen Memories, a Gothic mystery by Mary Miley. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s queued up on my Kindle and ready to read.

Until next time,

Amy

24 comments on “The First Last Tuesday Book Club Meets Here Today

  1. macjam47 says:

    This sounds interesting. I will add it to the tumbling TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much Amy Reade. I remember the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft. Looks like an interesting read to check out. I’m currently reading and loving The Night Child by Anna Quinn. Love the book club idea and thanks for the reminder on reviews!

    Like

    • amreade says:

      I just looked up The Night Child online. It looks really good!

      I also remember the theft being in the news. It’s hard to believe it hasn’t been solved yet. Maybe sometime you can join us for a book club discussion!

      Like

  3. Megha says:

    This sounds interesting, adding it to my reading list 🙂

    Like

  4. Very interesting. Your right up had made me interested to read the book but the following discussions has made me curious now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ellenbest24 says:

    I havent read this and have so many TBR books that I probably wont. But I enjoy your blog. Not sure book club is for me. I put my fingers in my ears and lalala over film trailers because they give to much away. 😣😶

    Like

  6. Ritu says:

    I wish i had time for a book club! But I’ll keep your recommendations for the future!

    Like

  7. Do you think Claire shares any of the blame for Isaac Cullion’s suicide?

    Absolutely not! In my thoughts Isaac committed suicide because he was caught in a circle of lies of his own making. He was depressed throughout the process as Claire painted what he then took ownership of. Claire’s mistake was allowing it to happen in the first place. It cost her plenty.

    Do you find Claire to be a sympathetic character? How about Aiden?

    I don’t find Claire sympathetic at all. Pathetic, possibly. All of the events around her are of her own choosing… she chose to make bad decisions and undoubtedly pays the price. As far as Aiden is concerned, I actually just see him as a common thief and not likeable at all.

    Can you imagine yourself in a position where you want something so badly that you would do anything–even something unethical or illegal–to get it?

    NO! Since I am about to be 70 years old, I think I can answer that question honestly. I am a firm believer that God gives us what we need to get by. Anything is possible with hard work and dedication. If you want more, work harder! If a person is driven by envy and greed and the desire to become famous to the point where they will do anything to get it… well there just may be consequences to be paid. Isaac, Claire and Aiden paid dearly.

    Do you think Aiden loves Claire? Why do you have that opinion?

    Initiallly no… i think Aiden fell in love with Claire as time went on, but there was too much deception for their relationship to survive.

    What about the lies Aiden and Claire tell each other, or the corollary of that, what about the truths they keep from each other–do you think they can love with that level of deception toward each other?

    No, if there is any love between them, it’s superficial. They use each other. Maybe if they would have come clean after they started to develop feelings for each other, they could have made it. Instead, they waited till they got caught… too late!

    Who is your favorite character and why?

    I can’t say that I had a favorite character. I find it hard to wrap my head around all the deception. I guess I cannot understand the type of desires that these characters possess. I found myself wanting to tell them to grow up and take responsibility for their actions! (Sooner Not Later)

    Why are Claire’s works suddenly very valuable at the end of the book? They’re the same paintings that haven’t sold for years–is it their intrinsic beauty that makes them valuable, or the artist’s reputation, or something else?

    My opinion…. Scandsl… sad but true, people love a good Scandal.
    .
    Did you leave a review of the book online?

    I have not yet reviewed this book online, but definitely will do so.

    Additional thoughts…. unfortunately, this was not one of my favorite books. I like a page turner, and this was a slow moving book. Usually I enjoy when a book goes back and forth, present and past, however this one seemed to jump back or forward when the reader is expecting to find an answer… only to have to wait longer. Also, the authors attempt at sexual encounters was a bit overdone and not necessary for the plot. Although the techinal aspects of painting a forgery are interesting, we heard about the layers, colors and the big oven far too many times, which in my opinion slowed the book down.

    On the positive side, the author did lots of research and was able to give the reader a good look at each character, along with the life that they chose to live. The desires that they posses is not something that I understand. I will rate it a 3 Star and definitely include a not my cup of tea comment.

    Phew, I was a bit harsh with this book… but completely honest! Would love to hear what others thought.

    Keeping it real… Have a wonderful Easter week.

    Like

    • amreade says:

      I agree with almost everything you said, but I probably enjoyed it a little more than you did.

      I found Claire to be caught in a web entirely of her own making. She made one bad choice after another throughout the book, beginning with letting Isaac take credit for work she had done. I really didn’t like her much at all. I understand she had an ethical dilemma, but if she had turned down the Faustian deal in the first place there would have been no dilemma.

      That being said, I don’t think she was in any way responsible for Isaac’s death. He was even more guilty than she was for getting himself into the position he found himself in. He was a self-absorbed person who really needed help and wasn’t getting it or even acknowledging it.

      Aiden. I couldn’t stand him. I got the feeling that he was trouble from the moment we met him, and he only got worse. I do think he fell for Claire, but I wouldn’t call it love (even if he would). I think he fell for her because they were alone in a situation they couldn’t allow anyone else to share. But the lies they both told and the deceptions they both engaged in were too many and too complex to allow real love to exist.

      I liked Rik. He provided a little bit of comic relief in the story and his was more a voice of reason than anyone else. You know who I really couldn’t stand? Isabella Stewart Gardner. She was the collector who started the chain of events that led to obsession and other irrational behavior.

      As for the wanting something so badly you’d do something illegal, I have mixed feelings. For a material thing, I couldn’t see myself ever stooping to illegal behavior to get it. But to protect my kids or my family, if push came to shove, I could see myself giving considerable thought to doing something I shouldn’t.

      The question about the value of art is the most interesting one, as far as I’m concerned. Why should something be more valuable just because of the reputation of the person who painted it? Yet it is…we see that throughout the book, both in Degas’ work, Claire’s work, and the work of the other forgers in history. It makes you think about the reasons people actually find things beautiful. Are they instrinsically beautiful, or are they beautiful because that’s what we’re told? Claire’s paintings were no doubt beautiful, but no one would buy them until she had the backing and support of a famous gallery. It’s kind of a twisted way to look at art. Art is supposed to speak to each person, but famous pieces come with baggage that can’t be ignored when people are looking at them. Would The Mona Lisa be as famous as she is if DaVinci hadn’t painted her–if she had been painted by some student somewhere, laboring in obscurity? I doubt it. It’s a really interesting question.

      I’m so glad you participated! Thanks for being so thorough with your responses.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are probably right about protecting your kids. It’s a lot harder raising kids today than it was when I was raising mine. But some of the choices we make may infkuence the choices they make later in life. That’s a tough one for sure.

        I agree about Rik… he was the only one with any common sense. I felt like the bar scenes were just a waste of time.

        I hope we get some more comments.

        Like

      • amreade says:

        Your comment about Rik reminds me of something else I wanted to mention. I totally agree that there was too much time in the book spent on painstakingly describing the processes involved in forging art. I think some of that could have been omitted and the book would have been a little tighter.

        I hope we get more comments, too! There were quite a few people who mentioned that they’d love to participate. I think it really depends on who had time to finish the book.

        Liked by 1 person

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