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The Muralist: A Novel Paperback – October 11, 2016
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“B. A. Shapiro makes the radical, varied, and sometimes enigmatic world of abstract expressionism altogether human and accessible in her smart new historical thriller. …It has more emotional ballast and is more skillfully written than what one customarily finds. The novel evokes the horror and sorrow of the Holocaust in just their tedious administrative tasks of retracing steps, of sifting through wreckage. Shapiro also does a wonderful job of restoring complexity to the historical moment and stripping away the clarity of retrospection.” —The Boston Globe
“Shapiro’s plotting is deft, and the anonymous paintings and Alizée’s disappearance add mystery and intrigue to the tale. Like her well-received 2012 novel, “The Art Forger,” this new story takes us into the heart of what it means to be an artist. …vibrant and suspenseful. As tens of thousands of modern-day asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa surge into Europe, and pictures of their mistreatment are broadcast around the world, “The Muralist” is a grim reminder that history continues to repeat itself.” —The Washington Post
“B.A. Shapiro captivated us in 2012 with her “addictive” novel The Art Forger. Now, she’s back with another thrilling tale from the art world, set right on the brink of World War II.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The Muralist is, like What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman or Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, a historical novel that brings the 20th century to life…” —USA Today
“Shapiro follows the enthusiastically received The Art Forger (2012) with an even more polished and resonant tale. [Her] novel of epic moral failings is riveting, gracefully romantic, and sharply revelatory; it is also tragic in its timeliness as the world faces new refugee crises.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Shapiro’s writing pulses with energy…. The Muralist brings the time period and setting to life. Readers will appreciate Shapiro’s seamless integration of fact into the story and will feel immersed in a time when the world tipped into chaos. Art, history, and mystery — an intriguing and satisfying blend.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“In The Muralist, novelist B.A. Shapiro deftly layers American art history, the facts of World War II and the fictitious stories of Alizee and Dani. …The Muralist is a compelling mystery. …The Muralist elevates Shapiro to an even higher plane and is sure to be a crowning touch in an already celebrated career.” —BookPage
“In this noirish intrigue and fine-art detective story, Shapiro ably intersects the early years of the abstract expressionist movement, the Roosevelts, institutionalized anti-Semitism that denied American visas to Jewish refugees, the relentless run-up to World War II, and the generational losses of the Shoah. Mystery and historical fiction lovers…will find this a riveting read.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Engaging … Shapiro convincingly portrays the work of the artist as an agent of expression and hope in a world of despair.” — The New York Jewish Week
“[Shapiro] knows how to craft a page-turner. The Muralist is certainly an engrossing tale. Perhaps it will also send a few readers to the Museum of Modern Art for a fresh look at the craft of Rothko, Pollock, and their contemporaries. That would be a wonderful, and very un-abstract, mingling of art and real life.” —New York Journal of Books
From the Back Cover
When Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, 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 works by those now-famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?
“Reminiscent, in the best way, of Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and the way that novel considered artists—both the great power of their grand statements and the often heartbreaking futility of same.” —The Boston Globe
“Noirish intrigue and [a] fine-art detective story.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Riveting, gracefully romantic, and sharply revelatory.” —Booklist, starred review
“The Muralist is, like What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman or Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, a historical novel that brings the 20th century to life.” —USA Today
“Barbara Shapiro once again pens the art world into vivid, sensual life. Set during World War II and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism, TheMuralist is an intriguing story masterfully imagined about art, war, family, truth, and freedom. If you liked The Art Forger, you’re going to love The Muralist!” —Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice
Top customer reviews
Many contemporary authors weave time, place, and characters to create a story that interests, teases, and sometimes requires patience. The Muralist contains two stories that shift from present times to the chaotic time of pre-WWII. The novel begins with Danielle Abrams, while working at Christies' auction house finds paintings hidden behind works by famous Abstract Expressionistic artists. The style of these hidden paintings resemble that of Danielle’s Aunt,Alizeé Benoit, who mysteriously vanished during World War Two.
The most interesting element of The Muralist is that it is populated with significant real people. Historical figures enhance this novel’s plot. You read about three of the founders of Abstract Expressionism—Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. My goodness, Eleanor Roosevelt is shown to be the compassionate, thoughtful person revealed by historians.
A significant element of the plot is the terrible plight of the European Jews in pre-war Europe. Regardless of European Jews being rounded up and disappearing, the world turned a blind eye. Shapiro selected another real character from the 1940’s-- the U.S. Undersecretary of State, Breckinridge Long. Indifferent to the refugees’ plight, Long’s influence on President Roosevelt was instrumental in turning away the Jewish refugees, even though returning to their homelands meant almost certain death.
Alizeé’s story is of being one of many American artists working for the WPA, which brings in Rothko, Pollock, and Krasner. Artists were employed by the government as a result of the depression. The invasion of France created fear for her family. She searched for a means to obtain visas for them, but her efforts were in vain. As the reports from France became more and more dire, Alizeé was consumed with worry and anxiety, becoming mentally unstable. Finally she snapped and was admitted to a mental facility, from where she vanished. Her niece, Danielle, seventy years later embarked on a difficult search for this woman who disappeared never to be seen again.
.I really enjoyed reading this novel. The story was complex, but was a great read. I wonder how an author can keep track of such a complex plot. My book group invited B.A Shapiro, who lives in Naples, Florida, to speak about The Art Forger and The Muralist. She gave a great, humorous talk on the evolution of her writing career. These two books are New York Times best sellers, yet her first novels were not well received. B.A. Shapiro has hit the literary world big time.
Although I don't believe this to be the intent of the author, I was struck by how these voices from 1939/40 so vividly described conversations and attitudes found in America today. For me, they served as the catalyst for exploring current attitudes toward refugees and cultural stereotyping. Thoroughly thought provoking and eerily reminiscent of political hyperbole bantered about today as argument to restrict assistance to Syrian refugees.