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The Chrysalis: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – April 29, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A luminous portrait by a fictitious artist is at the heart of Terrell's disappointing debut thriller. The painting actively links three separate story lines, presented in alternating chapters. A 17th-century Dutch artist creates a painting as a tribute to his lover and his Catholic faith; in 194's Amsterdam, Erich Baum is shipping his precious artwork to France for safekeeping; a present-day Manhattan attorney defends an auction house against claims by a Dutch woman that the Nazis stole the painting from her family. It's a promising plot structure, but that promise is buried under repetitious explanations of the legal issues, inept pacing and awkward dialogue. Former litigator Terrell earnestly wants to focus on questions of morality and betrayal across three centuries, but her artless writing frustrates those ambitions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Attorney Mara Coyne's firm is hired by the venerable art-auction-house Beazley's to defend the ownership of The Chrysalis, a seventeenth-century Dutch painting by Johannes Miereveld. The owner, who purchased the painting through Beazley's, is ready to sell, but Hilda Baum, whose parents died in the Holocaust, says the Nazis stole the painting from her family, and she wants it back. Working with Beazley's employee Michael Roarke, a former college classmate, Mara prepares the case, certain a positive outcome will guarantee her a partnership in her prestigious law firm. Then, when Mara finds some irregularities in Beazley's way of doing business, she works to unravel the truth--perhaps at the expense of her career. Jumping between present-day New York City and Holland, both in the seventeenth century and during World War II, the story starts slowly but builds in intensity to an exciting climax. Rich details about the art-auction business and case law are woven throughout this fascinating debut. Sue O'Brien
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345494679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345494672
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,714,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Chrysalis is Terrell's first book, and her legal training and experience are evident here in this fascinating historical mystery.

The story is told in three distinct eras:

1) the first is the creation of the painting, The Chrysalis, by Johannes Miereveld, a Dutch artist from the 1600s.

2) The second is the story of the owner in 1944, the Baum family in Belgium, Jews who have converted to Catholicism, and who love the painting for its Catholic iconography.

3) The bulk of the tale is told in the present day, when Beazley's auction house is planning on selling it for an unidentified seller, and Hilda Baum sues for the painting, claiming it was stolen from her family by the Nazis.

Beazley's provenance research shows it was sold by the family to a dealer in Nice. Mara Coyne, an attorney at a prestigious Manhattan firm, is convinced winning this case will encourage her firm to offer her a partnership. A bit dismayed when she finds out that the attorney for Beazley's that she will be working with is Michael Roarke, a sensitive and intelligent man she was attracted to in college. Still she soldiers on and her legal research proves brilliant. Her ability to keep her distance from Michael, however, is not so good--they form a secret relationship quickly. Mara also finds herself getting close to the main provenance researcher for Beazley's, the elderly Lillian Joyce. A sudden email discovery shows that her case and all she knows about Michael and Lillian may be false; her world is shattered. Does she want to be party to a fraud?

The various eras are portrayed well. I wish the book were longer so we could have lingered more in the 1600s with Johannes and Amalia.

Armchair Interviews says: The legal roadblocks to proving a painting's ownership when stolen by the Nazis are really amazing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't trust all the current 5-star reviews of this book, as most of them are very short and don't really say anything specific about the book or story (makes you wonder who wrote them). The main character (MC) is an attorney researching the provenance of an old painting which was allegedly stolen by Nazis, so I assumed it would be a mystery thriller with the MC travelling across the globe, chasing down witnesses, eluding mysterious bad guys, etc. Instead, the first half of the book is nothing but legal research as she looks up court rulings, checks documents, and researches similar cases. For this type of action, you might as well go to the local university and watch a student prepare for an exam. It's not until halfway through the book (almost exactly halfway) that the plot turns interesting. Aha, I thought, so NOW she'll race against time, try to evade some bad guys, jet across the ocean to track down some leads. Well... not so much. Instead it's just more research, except this time done in secret and with lots of prevarication on her part. There IS one trip to London, but given the specifics of it, there's almost no point in including it.

This book may be of interest to fellow lawyers or legal scholars, but I just don't think it was too exciting or even terribly interesting. The flashbacks to other time periods did provide some 'change of scenery' in the book, but in the end they didn't tell us anything that the MC doesn't find out herself. Meantime, there's no follow-up to tell us the result of the incident on the MC's life, since her legal career may have been adversely affected.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book some time ago, and just noticed that Ms. Terrell has a new book out called THE MAP THIEF, which I admit I have not read. But I did read CHRYSALIS, and enjoyed it very, very much. In fact, I read it back when it was still in galley form, and was impressed by the art history details, by Ms. Terrell's ability to keep the suspense ticking away, and by the way she captured the art world. It kept me entertained during a very long plane ride. The reason I'm putting in my two cents' worth now is that I just noticed the review from Publishers Weekly, and cannot believe how wrongheaded and cruel it is. They would have you believe this is a bad novel; may I say that the PW review is, in fact, the worthless piece of writing here?

I hope Ms. Terrell keeps writing many books to come. She can certainly create intriguing plots.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this. I was amazed that the author could create this believable and complicated conflict over a painting and then 1) show what actually happened to the painting (who bought and sold it -- legitimately or not; and 2) show the painting of the painting of itself -- in 15th century Holland! This last story line was my favorite. So much here throughout though: art, religion, morality. Betrayal and mystery. Aboslutely loved this.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read two books by Heather Terrell and enjoyed both. The Map Thief and this book are both enjoyable reads. I like the way the author goes back and forth in time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully written story about a current dilemma I.e.,who is the rightful owner of a DISPUTED PROVENANCE for a work of art. Many current novels deal with this question, some better than others. THE GOLDFINCH. THE NIGHTINGALE, etc. I believe this one is the best I have read to date.

The story is intricately woven, develops several complicated and believable characters and relationships, introduces valid moral questions, and kept me interested to the very end. I would recommend this book to any serious reader.
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