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Ratings and Book Reviews (2 9 star ratings
2 reviews
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4.4 out of 5
9
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  • 1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

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    Captivating novel

    The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is a dual timeline novel. It is April in 1928 in New York City where Clara Darden works as an illustration teacher at Grand Central School of Art. She is the only female faculty member and looked down upon because she is woman and an illustrator. After being taken under the wing of Oliver Smith, a poet and Levon Zakarian, a brash artist, Clara’s star starts to rise. Clara becomes the go-to illustrator for Vogue and she even designs a car. But looming on the horizon is the great depression and a horrible accident. Virginia Clay has been divorced almost a year and is forced to get a job in 1974 New York. After being unsuccessful as lawyer’s secretary, Virginia is assigned to the information booth at Grand Central Terminal. The building has deteriorated over the years and now there is a lawsuit to demolish the historical landmark to pave the way for a skyscraper. Virginia gets lost one day and stumbles into the area that once belonged to the Grand Central School of Art. She spies a beautiful painting hidden behind a cabinet in the storage room after an unexpected encounter. Virginia is drawn to the work of art and decides to take it with her. Little does she know that this one act will propel her into a mystery that goes back to 1928 and will include threatening letters. I found The Masterpiece to be an engaging story. It is well-written and has steady pacing. The POV switches between Clara and Virginia as the tale unfolds. The transitions were smooth, and it was easy to keep track of the various characters. Fiona Davis is a descriptive writer which brings the book alive. I could picture Grand Central Terminal in my mind along with New York from Ms. Davis’ word imagery. I cannot believe that people wanted to demolish this architectural masterpiece. I felt she captured the time-periods with the language, clothing, the lifestyles and attitudes. I could tell that the author did her research and it was interesting to learn the history of the Grand Central Terminal. Ms. Davis created realistic characters that fit into their time periods. I preferred Clara over Virginia. I loved the descriptions of Clara’s artwork and how she evolved as an artist. I liked that Virginia cared for Grand Central Terminal and was willing to do what was needed to help save the building. The mystery was clever, and readers will be surprised at the reveal. Fiona Davis crafted a historical novel with a complex plot that will capture readers attention and hold it until the very end. The Masterpiece is my favorite novel by Fiona Davis and it is one of the best books I have read in quite some time.
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    Stunning Characters!

    It should be known up-front that I'm a big fan of Fiona Davis'. Her writing, characters and choice of historical settings are always superb. As with most of Davis' historical fiction there are two women in two separate timelines that eventually come together. You might think that perhaps this choice of set-up in historical fiction would eventually feel overused or loose it's magic as it's been used to death; but for me it's the perfect way to relate a story. Setting I seem to always have an affinity for the oldest timeline and characters in any given historical novel. Perhaps because they seem more intriguing, magical or unpredictable? Whatever the reason, The Masterpiece was no exception to the rule for me. Both timelines keep the primary location of the Grand Central Terminal in New York; and yet one is about how gorgeous, vibrant and art filled the station is; while the other is set during a time when they nearly took the whole train station down! I didn't know that Grand Central nearly didn't survive decades ago from being demolished; and so this historical tidbit was great to learn about. Characters As always Davis has characters that are realistic and relatable. Whether it's our divorcee fighting to stay alive in (relatively) modern day (1974ish) or the aspiring artist in 1929 who everyone walks all over because she is a woman; Davis makes me feel like these are real women. At one point nearing the end of the story I was beside myself when I realized that there might not be a happy ending here! Inspiring emotion for the people in the story is key to a historical novel being successful and Davis does it masterfully in The Masterpiece. Plot There's a lot going on in here. We have intrigue and mystery in both timelines; and of course it all comes together beautifully in the end to tie our two ladies together. I don't to say too much, as I don't want to give any good tidbits away; but if you enjoy the unraveling of a history and finding out about people's dirty little secrets then I think you'll be on board for this plot. Unfortunately The Masterpiece falls to a four star book (from five) for me because of it's ending. There is a bit too much that just 'happens' for no real reason and so I put this book down feeling a little cheated at the contrived ending. Overall Regardless of if the ending is to my liking I still really enjoyed this story and would certainly consider revisiting it in the future. Davis gives us strong women who persevere even when the odds are stacked against them. I was able to relate to these women and even reflect a little on my daily life and realize that it could always be worse. Each day I read this during my commute to work (on the bus), at lunchtime or at home I felt like I was being subtly reminded that any one of our lead women could have been me. And that made me thankful to live when and where I do. Any book that is able to so strongly connect with me is worthy of a recommendation and a place on my print shelf (the highest honour I can give). While not a perfect five-star read; The Masterpiece is still more than worthy of a dive into the art and magic of a train station. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
9

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