The Masterpiece: Book summary and reviews of The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

The Masterpiece

by Fiona Davis

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis X
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
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Book Summary

In the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Historical fiction fans will love the compelling dual narrators and time periods perfectly captured in this novel based on the history of one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world." - Library Journal

"Davis entices with a fast-paced mystery and expertly reveals parallels between the two periods in New York and between Clara and Virginia, resulting in a true crowd-pleaser." - Publishers Weekly

"At times, the art-history lesson towers over the story, resulting in less tension and lower stakes than in Davis' earlier novels. Still, with richly drawn characters living in two storied eras, there is much to be enchanted by." - Kirkus

"Davis is a maximalist when it comes to plot elements, and not everything convinces, but the use she makes of New York history is always interesting." - Booklist

"A soaringly smart page-turner about art, history, memory, and how two blazingly unique women, separated and yet bound together by different decades, struggle to find their place and make their world their own. Magnificent." - Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World

"Bursting with delicious period detail, in The Masterpiece Fiona Davis takes us behind the scenes of New York's Grand Central Terminal to reveal a forgotten world of art and intrigue. Oozing with sophistication and packed with a delicious cast of characters (including the building itself), this is a hugely enjoyable and cleverly crafted historical novel." - Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Cottingley Secret

"An enthralling tale of love and art, lost and found...A fascinating, tender, mysterious and ultimately deeply satisfying novel." - M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues

"Davis seamlessly weaves the compelling narratives of these women against a backdrop of vivid historic detail, once again setting the standard for bringing New York's past to life." - Pam Jenoff, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Orphan's Tale

"Riveting, sophisticated, and utterly sublime, The Masterpiece
"A wonderfully woven story of two women separated by time but linked by their love of beauty expressed in art and their determination to save what they simply can't live without. Expertly researched and detailed, here is a book for devotees of historical fiction, the art world, and all things Manhattan." - Susan Meissner, bestselling author of As Bright as Heaven

This information about The Masterpiece shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews

FABULOUS - The Lion of Fifth Avenue
What would an art school teacher and an information booth attendee have in common besides Grand Central since the women lived 50 years apart? You would be surprised.

Clara taught illustration at the art school when it was in its hey day, and Virginia needed to work since she had been recently divorced. Since Virginia had no skills, the information booth was the best the temp agency could do for her.

The connection Virginia had to Clara was a drawing she found in the abandoned art school on the seventh floor of Grand Central. We, the reader, move back and forth from both time periods and learn about both women’s lives, their secrets, and Grand Central.

Virginia found drawings all over the school’s rooms and found one drawing in particular that was of interest and signed by Clyde. This particular drawing had some odd characteristics, and someone didn’t want Virginia to have it.

THE MASTERPIECE was focused on the artists of New York and the history of Grand Central. Ms. Davis did impeccable research about Grand Central’s history as well as characters based on real people and others fictitiously portrayed.

Both the history of Grand Central and the characters wove a pull-you-in story line. Did you know that Grand Central had been in jeopardy of being torn down at one point in history?

New York is a fascinating place historically, and I always enjoy going back in time to learn of bits and pieces of its hidden history.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the life styles, the parties, and the clothing. I am a nostalgic at heart.

Ms. Davis has created another beautiful “masterpiece” that historical fiction fans, New York City fans, mystery fans, and artists will love.

Make it part of your "required" summer reading. 5/5

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Shirley

Unbelievable twist in the ending!
Very disappointed in the ending; didn't make sense. A main character; supposedly masquerading as a man under the nose of another supporting character, wasn't believable! So many other ways each time period could have even if it left you wondering what happened to Clara.

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Author Information

Fiona Davis Author Biography

Photo: © Deborah Feingold

Fiona Davis is the nationally-bestselling author of historical fiction set in iconic New York City buildings, including The Lions of Fifth Avenue, The Chelsea Girls and The Address. Her books have appeared on the Indie Next List, been LibraryReads Picks and TheSkimm Reads Pick of the Week, and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

Link to Fiona Davis's Website

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