This book has been setting in my TBR pile for at least 3 years. I bought this book because of the cover (we’ll get back to that) and description. Set in Paris at the beginning of World War II, this book had all the elements of a great Historical Fiction. Throw in an American artist on a mysterious scholarship, a grumpy Russian painter and the world of art forgeries and it should have been a winner.
While the book starts in a lyrical tempo that pulled me in (I love when the words make you just float along with a story) it did not continue. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good story just not as great as I had hoped. I needed more details, more background, more something.
Side note regarding the cover – ???? It looks like lovers on a bench behind enemy lines. Well where was that in the book? There is a minor subplot of two artists who may be having an affair but we see them in a café and the art studio. There is also an interesting story about a chair that the Russian artist uses – but no bench.
While I enjoyed reading this book, it was not a great book for me.
At the turn of World War II, David Halifax is a young American painter who receives a scholarship to come to Paris and work under the tutelage of the mysterious and brilliant Russian painter, Alexander Pankratov. Getting more than he bargained for, Halifax is quickly subjected to Pankratov’s rigid will, and beguiled by the quiet, nude model who poses before them.
But Paris is also a city that is holding its breath. The Nazi forces are slowly penetrating the Maginot Line, and the once-indominitable city is now expecting the worst. Beneath Paris’ blanket of fear and eerie calm, David Halifax realizes the true purpose of his visit: Pankratov is to train him in duplicating the masterworks of the Paris museums, and with the aid of a wily art dealer, barter the fakes to Hilter’s legion of art dealers. What develops is a cat and mouse game through Paris’ silent streets, in the tunnels beneath its museums, and eventually into the scorched countryside of Normandy.
In David and Pankratov’s frantic race to complete the uncompletable, both are forced to confront the terrible sacrifices one must finally make for art; a sacrifice of identity, and perhaps of the soul.