Please note: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not alter the opinions of my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke's in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain--a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she's curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. As the three threads intersect, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerizes while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.
Review:The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith has so many of the elements that I love about historical novels: several distinct time periods with lots of little details to enhance the sense of the era, decisions in one era that have major consequences later on, a mystery, regrets. All of these components come together in this book to create a rich tapestry of story that will sweep the reader away.
The story alternates between three time periods: The Dutch1600's, New York in the 1950's, and Australia in the year 2000. A female Dutch artist endures the harsh realities of life in the 1600's. Her one surviving work, At The Edge Of A Wood, is passed down through the generations and winds up in the hands of a wealthy attorney. When the painting is stolen and replaced with a forgery, he must figure out who stole it and how the fake painting came to be.
I loved the details of how Sara created her paintings. It was also an insider's look into the high-stakes world of Art and museums. The book gives all sorts of details into how one could fake a masterpiece, and how forgeries are unmasked. I found it fascinating.
But this is also a very human story. From the tragedies of Sara's world of long ago to the longings of an art student in the 1950's, this story is alive with people who are trying to have a voice when the world is telling them to stay quiet. It is obvious in the Dutch era that Sara cannot fully express herself because she is a woman. And the art student Ellie is similarly restricted in 1950's New York. But Marty, the rich attorney, is also stifled in his marriage and career. He has a very well-defined role in his social circle and is looking for ways to break away.
I also enjoyed how the stories intertwined. At first, I could not see the connections between the three timelines (other than the painting). But as the story progressed, elements came to light that connected everything in a very satisfying way.
The book took several unexpected turns that kept me on my toes. This made it fun and very entertaining. The gratifying ending was really beautiful and wrapped up all the different story lines well.
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Format: ARC E-Book
Recommendation: If you love historical fiction, art, and human drama, I think you will love this book.