Saturday, July 27, 2019
Book Review: The Masterpiece
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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