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

Book Club Resources

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I’ve got book clubs on my mind this week. My first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, is being discussed at the inaugural meeting of a local book club during March and they’ve invited me to attend (woo hoo!). Once the meeting is over I think I’ll join the book club (because I already know I love their taste in books).

Recently I tried to join a pop-up book club which meets at a hotel about a half hour from my house. They meet for three months a year and this year the topic is Ernest Hemingway. They’re reading The Sun Also Rises by the man himself, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck. Alas, the book club was full by the time I heard about it, so I’m on the wait list and it doesn’t look like they’re going to have any open slots for me. I’ll just have to make sure I join early next year.

You may remember a while back I mentioned I was writing book club questions for my new novel, House of the Hanging Jade (coming out in about three months!). They’ll be in the back of the book. I also composed lists of discussion questions for Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, though those questions are not in the books– they’ll be going up on my website instead. While I was researching book clubs and discussion questions, I came across some useful and interesting websites. I thought I would share them with you in case you’re part of a book club and are looking for discussion ideas. They’re even good if you’re not in a book club and just want a way to dig deeper into a book you’re reading.

  1. The best site I found was for the Westfield Memorial Library in Westfield, NJ. It has an extensive list of discussion questions for fiction. You can find the list here: http://www.wmlnj.org/bookclubkits/generalquestionsfiction.asp.
  2. Another great site is https://multcolib.org/talk-it-book-groups-kids. It’s billed as a list for a kids’ book group, but I think the questions are great for anyone, adults or children.
  3. Here’s another: http://classiclit.about.com/od/bookclubs/a/aa_bcquestions.htm.
  4. This is a good one, though you have to scroll down to find the sample discussion questions: https://www.bookbrowse.com/bookclubs/advice/index.cfm/fuseaction/diy_guides.

I’ve also composed a list of a few good websites to find discussion questions for non-fiction books. You’ll note the first website is familiar–the Westfield Memorial Library again!

  1. http://www.wmlnj.org/bookclubkits/generalquestionsnonfiction.asp.
  2. http://www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org/yourlibrary/specialcollections/bellinghamreads/Reading%20Guides/General%20NF%20Bio%20Discussion%20Questions.pdf.
  3. http://lagrangelibrary.org/lagrange/images/general%20questions.pdf (this list contains questions for both fiction and non-fiction).

Want to know my favorite place to look for discussion questions? Go right to the source–the author! If there isn’t a list of discussion questions at the end of a book, email the author or visit his or her website to ask if there are any questions he or she could suggest for your book club. Trust me, the author will love it!

Do you have any resources you’d like to share?

Until next week,

Amy