Wednesday, November 14, 2018

*Review* The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: August 7, 2018
Pages: 362

In her latest captivating novel, nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

I received a copy of this through Penguin's First to Read program. This is my honest review. 

After reading and enjoying The Address, I was excited to see another Fiona Davis novel available on First to Read and rushed to guarantee my copy. While I knew what to expect, and had enjoyed the alternating timeline approach from Davis previously, this time around it didn't work as well for me. 

While I pretty much loved everything about Clara's story, except for all the patriarchal bullshit she had to deal with as a woman in the 20s and 30s, I could have done without the inclusion of Virginia's life story. I just wasn't nearly as drawn into her life experiences and therefore they didn't add much to the story for me. And even though I understand why they were used and what they accomplished, I would have been just fine without them being part of the story. Ultimately I would have preferred to just see more about Clara. 

I loved watching Clara persevere in spite of facing discrimination from pretty much every direction at the beginning of the story. Students didn't want to take her class, magazines and newspapers didn't want to hire her, and the director of her school was actively sabotaging her exposure whenever possible. But then she made a deal with Levon and that was the turning point for her. And I really would have loved to have seen more of the behind-the-scenes life she lived, or more about her time with Oliver and Levon. I just wanted more of her. 

Overall I give The Masterpiece 3.2867 stars because I loved parts of it, but could do without others. - Katie 

Fiona Davis began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.

For more info or to sign up, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment