The Last Tuesday Book Club: Stolen Memories

Welcome to the second edition of the Last Tuesday Book Club. Last month we read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and there were some interesting points made during the discussion. My plan is to read a book every month and to discuss it on the last Tuesday blog post of the month. I hope more people join us in the coming months!

This month’s selection for our Last Tuesday Book Club was Stolen Memories by Mary Miley. Mary is also the author of the Roaring Twenties mysteries, as well as a large number of non-fiction books. Stolen Memories is a work of Gothic fiction and I found it to be an exciting page-turner. Here’s a synopsis:

It’s 1928. A young English woman in Paris is attacked and thrown into the Seine, where she is left for dead. Thanks to the quick thinking of two sailors nearby, she is rescued and taken to a hospital. When she awakens, she is alarmed to discover that she has lost her memory. She doesn’t remember marrying the man standing over her with angry, flashing eyes, and she doesn’t remember why she was in Paris. The man is demanding that she reveal to him where she has hidden a number of paintings, and she has no idea what he’s talking about. As the woman slowly regains some of her disjointed memories, she is disturbed to find that she still doesn’t remember anything about her marriage, her home, the paintings, or her family.

I loved the book. Gothic fiction is my favorite genre to read and this did not disappoint. There is a French chateau, a woman who has lost her memory, a mysterious man of wealth and a dubious past, missing artwork, and an attempted murder. It has all the ingredients of a dark mystery.

There are a number of discussion questions at the end of the book, and I have opted to choose a few of them and supplement them with my own questions. Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below and ask any questions you  may have.

  • When does Eva/Claire begin to question her identity? Why does she initially explain away her doubts?
  • Dr. Thomas J. Barnardo was a real person who died in the 1950s. Was he correct, that heredity counted for very little and environment was everything? Would Eva have become Claire and Claire, Eva, if they had been adopted by the other’s parents?
  • Clearly, both heredity and environment (nature and nurture) play a role in every person’s development, but how would you rank the importance of each?
  • Did you recognize any of the other characters in the book, besides Dr. Barnardo, as being “real people?”
  • Why do you suppose Alex wanted the paintings back? Was it pride, financial need/want, determination, or something else? Was it a combination of things?
  • What did you think about Lianne’s role in bringing Eva/Claire to Luca? Do you think it was romantic imagination on Lianne’s part, or did she suspect that Luca meant Eva/Claire harm?
  • How do you feel about Alex’s sister Danielle? Do you like her? Dislike her? What do you think about her motives in visiting the chateau?
  • Why do you suppose Madame Denon and Cousin Pauline were in the book?

I reviewed Stolen Memories, giving it 5 stars. I hope you enjoyed reading and discussing the book. If you have any suggestions for a June book club selection, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, the selection for May is What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. I’ve read The Plum Tree by Ms. Wiseman and she is an incredibly skilled writer.

Until next time,

Amy

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