Select one of the keywords
The Muralist    by B. A. Shapiro order for
by B. A. Shapiro
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

There are two stories being told in The Muralist, by B. A. Shapiro. The first takes place in 2015 when Danielle, working for Christie's doing preliminary work authenticating art in an attempt to identify the artists, receives a box of Abstract Expressionist paintings. There was a rumor that these works could be priceless masterpieces that had been done by unknown artists who later became famous, while they were just getting started, working in the art division of the Works Progress Administration in the early 1940s.

Danielle was particularly interested in the early work of Abstract Expressionists because of two paintings that had been done by her mysterious great-aunt Alizée Benoit. Danielle's grandfather had told stories about his sister Alizée working for the WPA and hanging out in New York City with Pollock, Rothko, and Krasner. His stories indicated that she had possibly influenced the work of these famous artists before she inexplicably disappeared in late 1940, leaving behind only two paintings.

The second story is that of Alizée, beginning in 1939. We learn about her life as an aspiring artist, who sold one of her two existing works to Eleanor Roosevelt, and was indeed friends with famous painters, especially Mark Rothko and Lee Krasner. She was the only American in her French family, having been born while her parents were working in the United States. After their tragic death in a fire when she was twelve, she was taken back to France by her older brother Henri and raised by her French aunt and uncle. Now all of her remaining family, including her cousins, were in danger in France and Germany because they were Jewish and Hitler was on the move.

We learn in her chapters of Danielle's attempts to find out more information about her great-aunt and possibly verify that she was the artist responsible for some of the paintings in the box. Alizée's story is more complex, telling about her painting and her socializing with the other artists, as well as her worries about and attempts to rescue her family as she gets letters from them describing their increasing danger. Both stories are interesting, and the book comes to a satisfying conclusion. The characters are realistically drawn and the stories are compelling.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews