The Muralist: A Novel Info

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Don't miss B. A. Shapiro's new novel, The Collector's
Apprentice, coming October 16, 2018! “Vibrant and suspenseful . . . Like
The Art Forger, this new story takes us into the heart of what it means
to be an artist.” —The Washington Post “B. A. Shapiro captivated us in
2012 with her ‘addictive’ novel The Art Forger. Now, she’s back with
another thrilling tale from the art world.” —Entertainment Weekly When
Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress
Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows
what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied
France. Not her artistic patron and political compatriot, Eleanor
Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends, including Mark Rothko,
Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her
great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who while working at Christie’s auction
house uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those
now-famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the
questions surrounding her missing aunt?

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Muralist: A Novel:

5

Feb 25, 2015

The trigger points of The Muralist fan out in many directions. It simply speaks to the reader in a multi-faceted manner. Know that these literary rays will fall upon you and will touch your own, personal inner sensibilities. B.A. Shapiro crafts her novel with the colors of expressionistic art, historical fiction, and the historical realities of the time period. You, dear reader, will draw from it as differently as the mind's eye.

I've read Shapiro's, The Art Forger, and this is a step in quite a The trigger points of The Muralist fan out in many directions. It simply speaks to the reader in a multi-faceted manner. Know that these literary rays will fall upon you and will touch your own, personal inner sensibilities. B.A. Shapiro crafts her novel with the colors of expressionistic art, historical fiction, and the historical realities of the time period. You, dear reader, will draw from it as differently as the mind's eye.

I've read Shapiro's, The Art Forger, and this is a step in quite a different direction. Shapiro chooses to thread her story with the atrocities that were visited upon the Jews during World War II through her character, Alizee Benoit. Alizee is a talented, but unrenowned artist in New York City in the late 1930's with the surround-sound of the rise of Hitler and the brink of impending war. Shapiro creates a triangular friendship with the likes of Rothko, Pollack, and Krasner. Alizee secures a position with the WPA as an artist. And so it is now that the embroidery is sewn with the artistic thread that will weave itself into the future of this novel.

Shapiro draws into the present-day with the niece of Alizee, Danielle Abrams, who works at Christie's Auction House. Danielle comes upon hidden art squares that she believes have been done by Alizee Benoit. Here is the hook: Alizee had disappeared completely after 1940. What happened to her aunt and to her creative work on the horizon? Danielle is determined to find out.

But here is where you must look with deeper eyes. Shapiro reveals a part of our history that sheds light on Breckinridge Long who was appointed by FDR to monitor refugee visas from Europe at the time. Alizee, though ficticious, is the vehicle in which she reveals the players: Long, FDR, Eleanor. It is an eye-opener to lift the covers on what part the U.S. played in regard to Jewish immigrants at the time period. If anything, it will give you insight into the controversy. And you decide what the book's episodes reveal to you.

And that is why The Muralist is so difficult to review. It's all in the approach, both from the author, herself, and from the perspective of the reader. You will take away from it a miriad of emotions, all as varied as we are as readers.





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4

Sep 29, 2015

"Do you know that Jewish children in France are being turned away from swimming pools in the heat of August? Somehow despite the smallness of this, the image haunts me.
How does a mother explain such a thing to a child? That she is not good enough to swim? That someone hates her so much they cannot share the same water?

This story is about abstract expressionist artists and how they have changed our world...and the mystery around what happened to one woman-artist who disappeared during
the eve "Do you know that Jewish children in France are being turned away from swimming pools in the heat of August? Somehow despite the smallness of this, the image haunts me.
How does a mother explain such a thing to a child? That she is not good enough to swim? That someone hates her so much they cannot share the same water?

This story is about abstract expressionist artists and how they have changed our world...and the mystery around what happened to one woman-artist who disappeared during
the eve on World War II. Yet, whenever I experienced anti-Semitism such as I did in the quote above, is when my heart sank.

....( 2005)
Danielle, is the great niece of Alizee. She's trying to solve the mystery Alizee's past, her mysterious disappearance, while at the same time discover more of who she is herself. There will be twists, turns and discoveries!

....(1939)
Alizee is a artist working - struggling- (with mental issues as well), as a muralist on a WPA project just before the United States enters WW11. She's Jewish, living in New York. The rest of her family, (Who she misses terribly) are in Europe and she's hoping to get them out safely. Alizee is trying to cope with anxiety from a past trauma. I was always wondering what the outcome would be for Alizee. ( this is where suspense was sitting in my belly).

Eleanor Roosevelt is working to help European refugees - and also add support to Alizee --
showing appreciation for her art - and the modern art movement.

I've read other compelling books about the impact that art -treasures- and artists have had during World War II. :
"The Bridal Chair", by Gloria Goldreich - -
"Love and Treasure", by Ayelet Waldman - -
"The Improbability of Love", by Hannah Rothschild
and there have been others....

I learn a little something different from each of these Historical novels. With this one I found
myself looking up more information about the Works Progress Administration (WPA),
and reading more about other artist mentioned in the book: Rothco, Pollack, de Kooning, and Krasner..... for whom I've deepen my appreciation. Many thanks goes to the author: B. A. Shapiro

It was ....
....A Time of political unrest -
....Economic depression-
....And the United States seemed clueless to what was really going on in Europe.

May we not forget.
NOTE....I started reading this on Yom Kippur ( the day of atonement).

Thank you to Algonquin Books, Netgalley, and B. A. Shapiro.




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2

Nov 15, 2015

Meh, I started this but it seemed trite, a bit formulaic. I had liked Shapiro's previous novel, The Art Forger, but this latest book just wasn't gelling for me. Maybe I'll try again later.
4

Sep 29, 2015

3.5 It is always interesting to see how an author takes historical facts and mixes them with fictional characters to create a story. In this one she takes Krasner, Pollock and Mark Rothko, who in fact did work for the WPA in 1940, and mixes that with a character named Alize whom works alongside them. Alize is Jewish and her family in in France, she knows they are at risk and is trying every means possible to get them out.

Many discussions about art, creativity, the emotional highs and lows of 3.5 It is always interesting to see how an author takes historical facts and mixes them with fictional characters to create a story. In this one she takes Krasner, Pollock and Mark Rothko, who in fact did work for the WPA in 1940, and mixes that with a character named Alize whom works alongside them. Alize is Jewish and her family in in France, she knows they are at risk and is trying every means possible to get them out.

Many discussions about art, creativity, the emotional highs and lows of the artists and the erratic actions of Pollock. Eleanor Roosevelt and her sponsoring of the artists and Breckinridge Long, a despicable man who wasted visas that could have let many more Jews into the United States. A very interesting read, taking place during a time of great political pressures. Shapiro uses two time lines in telling her story, Dani, who is trying to trace her aunt Alize, who had mysteriously disappeared after 1940, and of course Alize's
story.

My only criticism is that at times it felt a bit preachy and the dialogue stilted. But, this is no way kept me from avidly enjoying this novel, love both art and history, and the story, both of them, flowed very well. It was quite fascinating reading about these Avant garde artists. Also loved the author's note which explained moved timelines and historical fact.

ARC from publisher. ...more
0

May 03, 2016

The Muralist held my interest and gave me cause to reflect on history, particularly those who were turned away from our shores prior to World War II.

The Hook B.A. Shapiro will be speaking at an author event in Manchester, Vermont this weekend. I’m so happy to be attending and wanted to read her second art themed book attending this author talk.

The Line ”Stood by and said nothing.”

The Sinker Even publishers have varying opinions about books.

Kirkus Reviews 09/01/2015), in part stated ”Eleanor The Muralist held my interest and gave me cause to reflect on history, particularly those who were turned away from our shores prior to World War II.

The Hook B.A. Shapiro will be speaking at an author event in Manchester, Vermont this weekend. I’m so happy to be attending and wanted to read her second art themed book attending this author talk.

The Line ”Stood by and said nothing.”

The Sinker Even publishers have varying opinions about books.

Kirkus Reviews 09/01/2015), in part stated ”Eleanor Roosevelt's deep, end-of-life regret that the United States barred thousands of Europe's Jewish refugees adds poignant color to this story, but Shapiro tries too hard to make her fiction into moral instruction.”

Booklist gave The Muralist a starred review ending with this sentence: ” Shapiro's novel of epic moral failings is riveting, gracefully romantic, and sharply revelatory; it is also tragic in its timeliness as the world faces new refugee crises.”

I’ll join the Booklist camp on this one.

In the years just prior to World War II, Alizee Benoit, goes missing after painting some political pieces. Living in New York, she is a young student of abstract impressionism. Her Jewish relatives, living in France, beseech Alizee to secure them visas to bring them to the US before Hitler makes their escape impossible. Few visas are being given. With increasing urgency Alizee does all she can to get them visas even enlisting the aide of Eleanor Roosevelt to help her. And then she disappears. Never to be seen again. In 2005 her great-niece Danielle, is working in an auction house when she discovers some painting that have the potential to be the early works of some famous artists, Rothko, Krasner, and Pollock. While examining the backsides to authenticate these paintings, she uncovers three envelopes containing two-foot squares of canvas, paintings that stun her senses and may those of her long missing aunt. In alternating narratives we discover the passion motivating Alizee, the quest of Danielle for answers, and a good story mixing art, history and mystery.

In her notes, Shapiro reminds us that The Muralist is historical fiction.

”A historical novel is a work of long fiction set in a previous time period.”

Though true Shapiro, with her fine skill with words, is able to capture the intensity of the times just as her character Alizee did using ”the power of great art.”
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3

Sep 21, 2015

**received as part of an early reviewers program**

I like the idea. I like some of the details. but mostly? mostly it's just sortof uninspired and bland.

The writing is... not great. The two stories, supposedly told from two vastly different points of view, are told in exactly the same way. There's a lot of name dropping, but not much in the way of bothering to try and understand much of any of the characters. There's a whole lot of relying on stereotypes. (all artists are crazy! That's why they **received as part of an early reviewers program**

I like the idea. I like some of the details. but mostly? mostly it's just sortof uninspired and bland.

The writing is... not great. The two stories, supposedly told from two vastly different points of view, are told in exactly the same way. There's a lot of name dropping, but not much in the way of bothering to try and understand much of any of the characters. There's a whole lot of relying on stereotypes. (all artists are crazy! That's why they can create! that kinda thing)

It's an ok book, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it. ...more
5

Nov 09, 2018

The Muralist was a beautiful historical fiction novel focusing on a young American painter, Alizee Benoit, working on art and murals for the Works Progress Administration in New York City during World War II. Alizee is a talented young painter working with other struggling expressionist artists, namely, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Lee Krasner. It is during this time that Alizee is befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt, and later enlisted by Alizee to help her in securing passage for her Jewish The Muralist was a beautiful historical fiction novel focusing on a young American painter, Alizee Benoit, working on art and murals for the Works Progress Administration in New York City during World War II. Alizee is a talented young painter working with other struggling expressionist artists, namely, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Lee Krasner. It is during this time that Alizee is befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt, and later enlisted by Alizee to help her in securing passage for her Jewish family, having fled Germany to France, now seeking visas to come to America. Woven into the story is Danielle Abrams, an artist for Christies tasked with cataloging art from the WPA seventy-five years later when she comes across some pieces that she feels may have been done by her aunt, Alizee Benoit. Danielle is determined to find out all she can about these mysterious art pieces, hoping that if they were in fact done by Alizee, she will be able to solve the mystery of her aunt's disappearance in 1940. B.A. Shapiro deftly moves between these time periods as we see the escalation of the war in Europe and the plight of the refugees seeking asylum. A light is shone upon the Roosevelt administration's policies regarding immigration as instituted by Secretary of State, Breckinridge Long. This was a riveting book on many levels. I loved it.

"Eleanor's failure to force her husband to admit more refugees remained her deepest regret at the end of her life."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time

"Alizee stared into the mirror, searching for herself, but what she saw was a Picassoesque collage: a nose, an eye, a cheekbone. She knew this wasn't her true reflection, yet it resonated. Her doppelganger, her fractured, frightened other. A tear rolled from the eye." ...more
2

Mar 06, 2015

I loved The Art Forger by the same author, but found this one simply did not engage me. It's as if the author thought the history was sufficiently dramatic that she didn't have to work at creating a compelling personal story for the characters. Alizee Benoit, a young artist working for the WPA in New York in 1940, is, rightly, obsessed with getting her relatives out of France before they can be mowed down in the horror of the holocaust. Unfortunately, not really knowing her relatives, I could I loved The Art Forger by the same author, but found this one simply did not engage me. It's as if the author thought the history was sufficiently dramatic that she didn't have to work at creating a compelling personal story for the characters. Alizee Benoit, a young artist working for the WPA in New York in 1940, is, rightly, obsessed with getting her relatives out of France before they can be mowed down in the horror of the holocaust. Unfortunately, not really knowing her relatives, I could not feel emotionally engaged in her quest. The characters she interacts with -- artists who would later become the giants of the abstract movement in the fifties and sixties like Rothko, DeKooning, Pollock and Krasner -- feel flat, put there to give the reader some background in the shaping of the abstract sensibility rather than coming to life on their own terms. I learned about the anti-immigration policies of the Roosevelt administration (politics, politics!) but as one might learn about events from a history book.

I think the author was perhaps too close to her subject, felt that because she was telling about a time with tragic events, that was enough. Maybe next time she will work harder to create great characters and a great story. ...more
3

Aug 23, 2016

Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist has occupied a spot on my TBR longer than I care to admit. The subject matter intrigued me and I have always been intrigued by the face on the cover, but the book never demanded my immediate attention. It wasn’t until recently, in an effort to clean up my review backlog, that I turned my eye to the narrative and borrowed an audio edition from my local library.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist has occupied a spot on my TBR longer than I care to admit. The subject matter intrigued me and I have always been intrigued by the face on the cover, but the book never demanded my immediate attention. It wasn’t until recently, in an effort to clean up my review backlog, that I turned my eye to the narrative and borrowed an audio edition from my local library.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to say that I loved Xe Sands’ narration. I listened to this volume on the heels of Donna Thorland’s The Turncoat and couldn’t believe the contrast. Madeleine Lambert butchered the latter volume while Sands enhanced former. There is passion in Sands’ interpretation and I felt the subtle artistry of her tones complimented the text very nicely.

As far as the story goes, I feel the novel has a lot going for it. Shapiro explores the foundations of abstract expressionism by associating Alizée with Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko and I found the chapters dedicated their art absolutely fascinating. I thought Shapiro’s illustration of the artist community brilliant and I liked the attention she paid both the creativity and neurosis that characterized their company.

I felt the story took a hard turn when Eleanor Roosevelt entered Alizée’s world and I'm not sure it was for the better. The two women seemed to share an unnaturally close bond and the relationship didn’t feel authentic in my eyes. I liked the idea of the Breckinridge Long plot line, but in looking at the novel as a whole I felt there was too much going on. Alizée’s art and her personal troubles were more than enough and I found supplementing it with a political intrigue overwhelming.

I was equally unimpressed with the modern story line. Dani Abrams bored me and the conclusion of her experiences seemed heavy-handed, melodramatic, and overly coincidental. Here again I felt Alizée’s story could have carried itself and I have no problem admitting that I didn’t have much appreciation for her downtrodden and hopelessly clichéd niece.

Historically speaking, I liked how Shapiro described New York and American views of the day, but I can’t say I was particularly moved or impressed with the scenes that played out in France. I don’t know why, but that setting never came alive for me and I couldn’t help feeling those chapters were dominated by fact dumps and long winded exposition.

In sum, I liked the book and enjoyed the ideas and thoughts it inspired. I can’t say it my all-time favorite read, but I would definitely recommend it to fellow readers, especially those with an interest in art history. ...more
4

Jul 23, 2015

A historical novel is such a good way to learn about abstract art & WPA & even WWII France. This was a good story . . . main storyline followed Alizee, as a young Jewish artist in NYC around 1940, equally passionate about her art and about rescuing her family from Hitler's Europe. Secondary story, told in first person, was about Dani, her great-niece, an artist working as an art cataloger who tries to piece together the story of Alize's disappearance as a young woman. I confess -- I A historical novel is such a good way to learn about abstract art & WPA & even WWII France. This was a good story . . . main storyline followed Alizee, as a young Jewish artist in NYC around 1940, equally passionate about her art and about rescuing her family from Hitler's Europe. Secondary story, told in first person, was about Dani, her great-niece, an artist working as an art cataloger who tries to piece together the story of Alize's disappearance as a young woman. I confess -- I never understood anything about abstract art, had no appreciation or curiosity about Rothko, Pollock, etc., but now that I have some understanding of their art, I look forward to seeing it again, with different eyes and understanding. That is what is so satisfying about reading historical novels, I think! Appreicated author's note at the end, too, explaining background and where fictional characters/events were added to the novel. ...more
4

Jun 05, 2015

A mixture of a thriller, a mystery and historical fiction, kept me listening. Moving two characters and between 1940's and 2015, the mystery is solved. Art and WWII are at the center of these women's lives. One theme that struck me was that of 1940s refugees not allowed to enter the US reminded me that we are still facing this is issue in 2016 as we deal with and watch other countries deal with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees being turned away because of their faith or the countries from A mixture of a thriller, a mystery and historical fiction, kept me listening. Moving two characters and between 1940's and 2015, the mystery is solved. Art and WWII are at the center of these women's lives. One theme that struck me was that of 1940s refugees not allowed to enter the US reminded me that we are still facing this is issue in 2016 as we deal with and watch other countries deal with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees being turned away because of their faith or the countries from which they seek refuge. ...more
3

Nov 06, 2015

Just ok. An interesting premise, but unbelievable. The scenes with Krasner, Pollack, Rothko, etc. seemed too contrived.
4

Jun 30, 2018

The B. A. Shapiro writes lively characters that made for a compelling story.

It was a delight to listen to Xe Sands read "The Muralist". There were a number of male and female characters and she did an exceptional job developing their unique voice. This is the second book I've read by B.A. Shapiro, the first was "The Art Forger" which was also captivating.

Danielle Abrams is a curator at Christie's Auction and discovers pieces of a mural taped on the back of a famous artist's work. Her research The B. A. Shapiro writes lively characters that made for a compelling story.

It was a delight to listen to Xe Sands read "The Muralist". There were a number of male and female characters and she did an exceptional job developing their unique voice. This is the second book I've read by B.A. Shapiro, the first was "The Art Forger" which was also captivating.

Danielle Abrams is a curator at Christie's Auction and discovers pieces of a mural taped on the back of a famous artist's work. Her research leads her to believe that it may be part of a bigger work and perhaps it was done by her lost Aunt, Alizee Benoit, an American painter, who participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in New York City. Danielle is diligent and becomes obsessed with locating answers about her own family history. This frantic efforts lead her to take a trip to France to dig into the disappearance of Alizee.

Interspersed is Alizee's experiences in the first person as she interacts with some of the other mural artists on the WPA, who become famous later perhaps as a result of their murals. Alizee is a French Jew, who came to NYC before the war. Her family put off leaving France thinking Hitler would be defeated by the other military forces and once the country becomes occupied, she diligently attempts to get VISA's for her family. Standing in the way of her success are two men, who don't want to ruin their political careers by bringing in more immigrants to take away jobs from the unemployed Americans. When Alizee has a chance meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady becomes a big fan of her work and buys some paintings Alizee has already done. Alizee imposes upon the first lady to help her get the VISA's for her French family but the President is angered by her interference in this political hot potato.

Several of Alizee's friends and her lover are livid at the lack of American commitment to the refugees targeted by the Third Reich. There is discussion of doing dire actions in order to change the system but the results maybe extreme. Alizee becomes so frantic that she becomes emotionally unstable. Several people convince her to check in to a mental hospital for a rest. It is during this time that she disappears.

Will Danielle find out what became of Alizee and her family? That is for you to walk that path with Danielle.

If I ever decide to revisit this story, I will probably read it. I had a little difficulty following the narrative at times while navigating road construction and rush-hour in the large city in which I live. It was not the writer or narrator's fault.

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5

Sep 10, 2015

published here: http://entertainmentrealm.com/2015/11...

When you think every WWII story has been told, an original narrative comes along and you realize there’s a plethora of war stories remaining to be explored and shared. Abstract expressionist art, French refugees and the WPA collide in this riveting historical fiction novel that focuses on the sudden disappearance of young Jewish-American artist Alizée Benoit. Post-depression and pre-war, Alizée works alongside Lee Krasner on murals for published here: http://entertainmentrealm.com/2015/11...

When you think every WWII story has been told, an original narrative comes along and you realize there’s a plethora of war stories remaining to be explored and shared. Abstract expressionist art, French refugees and the WPA collide in this riveting historical fiction novel that focuses on the sudden disappearance of young Jewish-American artist Alizée Benoit. Post-depression and pre-war, Alizée works alongside Lee Krasner on murals for government-funded WPA. The Works Progress Administration], established as part of the New Deal, hired the unemployed for public works projects and hired artists, writers and actors to develop arts, media and literacy projects]. Alizée vanishes amidst personal and political turmoil.

Author B.A. Shapiro drops this fictional character in among real historical figures such as Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and William de Kooning, well-known abstract artists in the 40s. This only works when you believe that the fictional character could have truly existed and with the outstanding depiction and details. Readers become involved in Alizée’s story and in her quest to expose the truth about the war and save her family from impending atrocities the Nazi Party will commit in France [Alizée’s family lives in France] before the United States became involved in the great war. While she falls into an affair with Mark Rothko she remains focused on her art as well as helping refugees flee Europe while the Nazis begin to evoke terror.

Rothko seems the most understanding being Jewish and having depression: “Whenever they passed one of the many restaurants in New York with a RESTRICTED sign in the front window, indicating that neither Negros nor Jews would be served, Mark was the first to say that he wasn’t interested in eating anywhere he wasn’t wanted. But there was always a particular set to his mouth, a hardness in his eyes, as they passed on.” Her friends including Pollock and Krasner support her and even assist her to create one political mural but fear losing their livelihood as artists by becoming too politically-involved. Shapiro writes: “Alizée understood they felt safe and secure on their side of the Atlantic, content with a worldview that didn’t cross over much to the other.”

By day she works for the government-funded WPA and in her free-time Alizée remains part of the counter-culture. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt [“Mrs. Roosevelt was a moving force behind the WPA/FAP, and every artist on the floor revered her for that] who purchases several paintings and becomes quite impressed with Alizée’s talent and desire to use her art to convey messages. She belongs to a communist anti-war group, Americans for No Limits. Alizée saves all her money to purchase visas for her family to leave France. She’s met with many roadblocks. Shapiro notes that there’s a young congressman (Lyndon Johnson) secretly transporting refugees to Texas. Unfortunately he’s not focusing on France at that time.

This clash of ideals makes Alizée a target and puts her into increasingly dangerous situations. President Roosevelt didn’t want the United States to become engaged in the war and to that end didn’t seem interested in assisting political (Jewish) refugees either. Honestly not that different from the United States willingness to bring Syrian refugees here. Alizée makes enemies with Eleanor Roosevelt’s isolationist enemies-- Joseph Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh and Breckinridge Long.

In present day, Alizée’s great-niece Danielle Abrams works as a cataloger at Christie’s auction house. She gave up her plans to become an artist years ago. Instead she works to research and authenticate remarkable art for auction. Danielle discovers paintings hidden on the backs of potential masterpieces by Pollock, Rothko and Krasner which she believes might belong to her great-aunt. So begins a mystery which forces Danielle to follow her great-aunt’s tracks even traveling to France. Her family, particular her grandfather and Alizée’s brother, never revealed that much about Alizée who disappeared and devastated her brother prior to the war. Although he eventually made it to the United States, Henri never found out what happened to his sister.

Clearly Shapiro conducted extensive research and concocts a brilliant story that allows readers to learn about some of the government programs and policies prior to WWII. It’s an exciting and vivid imagining of what might have occurred during this tense and difficult era. Besides Alizée’s political involvement, there’s much about Rothko’s depression and a stint that Alizée spends in a mental institution. Her friends see her for the final time before Rothko drives her to be admitted. There’s much discussion between mental illness, self-medication, mental breakdowns, creativity and artwork.That’s fascinating and could be a novel in itself. When Danielle discovers that her great-aunt Alizée spent time in a mental institution she finds out that “there’s a strong statistical association between what we consider the artistic soul and the disease; compared with the general population, creative people—writers, painters, dancers, musicians, actors, directors—are much more frequently diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.”

Alizée is independent, brave, determined and talented. Much like her aunt, Danielle is a strong, outspoken and a confident woman. From page one I became engulfed in both Alizée’s and Danielle’s stories and how their lives intertwined. I learned many aspects about this time period of which I’d been unaware. This is a must-read for fall. It’s the November 2015 Indie Next #1 Great Read.
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3

Jan 25, 2015

This book is a historical fiction novel with fictional characters interacting with real-life persons and events.

I read this author’s other novel entitled The Art Forger a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same love for this book. The main character, Alizee Benoit, is an American artist living and working in New York. She had been hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was a government project to put the unemployed to work during the depression. This book is a historical fiction novel with fictional characters interacting with real-life persons and events.

I read this author’s other novel entitled The Art Forger a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same love for this book. The main character, Alizee Benoit, is an American artist living and working in New York. She had been hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was a government project to put the unemployed to work during the depression. Her parents had been killed in an explosion when she was a young child and all her other family was in France.

The story flips between the current day and the beginning of World War II prior to America joining the war. I enjoyed learning more about the occupation of France and how America, under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, told the world that they were open to Jews immigrating to America where in fact, the government official in charge of approving visas, was deliberately not approving them because he was anti-Semitic. Eleanor Roosevelt played a substantive role in the story whereby she befriends the fictional character, Alizee, and tries to assist her in bringing her family over from France.

The reason I only gave this book three stars was because I just wasn’t all that interested in Alizee’s backstory and artist’s life. I didn’t find the character at all compelling when compared to the character in The Art Forger. While I am glad I read the book because I learned more about the United States’ role in pre-World War II, the character’s story just didn’t intrigue me enough to rate it higher.
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3

Aug 16, 2016

Danielle Abrams, a budding artist, finds some interesting abstract paintings while working at Christie’s auction house. Her job involves authenticating the artwork in preparation for sale. Danielle can’t help feeling that the paintings closely resemble work done by her great aunt, Alizee Benoit, a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Alizee was a colleague of the abstract painters Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Lee Krasner, among others. The fictional Danielle Abrams, a budding artist, finds some interesting abstract paintings while working at Christie’s auction house. Her job involves authenticating the artwork in preparation for sale. Danielle can’t help feeling that the paintings closely resemble work done by her great aunt, Alizee Benoit, a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Alizee was a colleague of the abstract painters Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Lee Krasner, among others. The fictional character of Alizee was well on her way to becoming famous when she became obsessed with helping her Jewish family escape the Nazis who had invaded her home country of France. She became actively involved with groups who attempted to change U.S. laws which limited immigration of Europeans Jews prior to World War II. Alizee was so committed to aiding the cause that she suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a sanitarium. She was never seen or heard from again.

Danielle sets out to discover the fate of her great aunt as she attempts to authenticate the paintings. Mixing fact and fiction, author Barbara Shapiro weaves a story of love, obsession, politics and the early days of the Abstract Expressionist movement in art.
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5

Oct 27, 2015

This book is almost too beautiful to bear. I had previously read the artist's book The Art Forger and loved it so I suspected I would enjoy this one too and I really did. This story is about young Alizee Benoit, an American citizen who was a Jew originally from France who is an artist in New York City working in the late 1930's with other unknowns like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothco (her lover who was married but separated) for Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration) This book is almost too beautiful to bear. I had previously read the artist's book The Art Forger and loved it so I suspected I would enjoy this one too and I really did. This story is about young Alizee Benoit, an American citizen who was a Jew originally from France who is an artist in New York City working in the late 1930's with other unknowns like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothco (her lover who was married but separated) for Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration) Arts Division where they created art works for public buildings (this was designed to give jobs under the WPA to help people recover from the Great Depression). Her parents had died when she was a child in a university lab fire and an aunt and uncle took her in and raised her as their own along with her brother Henri. She had moved to the USA when you still could get out but now she is receiving frantic messages from her aunt and uncle, their daughter who is married with 2 little girls, their son and her brother, all stuck in Europe and begging her to help them get visas. Unfortunately FDR was an idiot who didn't have the balls to stop his anti-Semitic friend the real life creeper Breckinridge Long (Assistant Secretary of State) from refusing to issue hundreds of thousands of visas Congress had set up for Nazi refugees (Jews from Europe) and who himself said America was a protestant country and Jews just tolerated here (Catholics too). Famous men like Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy were also Jew haters who worked hard to keep any Jews from coming in. A lot of people died over this.

The story is amazing, includes good details of life in those days and Alizee's frantic efforts (even through First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) to get visas to get her family out of France and Belgium as well as the life of artists at the time. The story shifts to 2015 in many chapters where Alizee's great-niece Danielle Abrams, an artist who works at Christie's auction house tries to prove some art that was brought in was done by her Great-aunt Alizee who disappeared in 1940 and to find out what happened to Alizee. The switches are done smoothly. I admit, I cried during some (many) parts of this story. I was so emotionally caught up in it and felt as frantic as Alizee did. Very highly recommended. ...more
1

Aug 09, 2016

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Xe Sands, and I bailed about 32% in.

This story has so many elements that I usually love. It's a story with two time lines. The earlier one is set in the 1940s, and centers around a young painter in the days of the WPA, and her cadre of painters, who are household names today. The second story line is set in 2015 and centers around woman number one's grand niece. Painters, artists, missing people, authenticating artwork, the plight of Jewish I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Xe Sands, and I bailed about 32% in.

This story has so many elements that I usually love. It's a story with two time lines. The earlier one is set in the 1940s, and centers around a young painter in the days of the WPA, and her cadre of painters, who are household names today. The second story line is set in 2015 and centers around woman number one's grand niece. Painters, artists, missing people, authenticating artwork, the plight of Jewish refugees, etc. All these should have added up to something with more meat, but alas did not.

The writing itself is not bad, but the plot seemed to rely on the reader's emotional response to events surrounding World War 11, without the author earning those emotions, and that felt somewhat like cheating to me. There was not enough character development for me to know, or really care, about any of the people in this story, and they seemed to be generic stand-ins for historical figures. I don't have an issue with very specific stories that use war time or historical events as their backdrop, but the author must earn the emotions in the writing, and not simply move characters around while dropping clues that tell the reader what to feel.

On the plus side, this is the first that I'd heard about the history surround the MS St. Loius, and I plan to read more about it. Also, this book reminded me that I really should move a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt higher up my TBR pile.

This is the second book by this author that I have DNFed, both for similar reasons: books with a wonderful premise that do not deliver.
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4

Nov 29, 2015

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

I was so thrilled when I heard about this to find an art history novel that isn't about the Impressionists or the Italian Renaissance. So few and far between! I loved that the author took a little-known piece of art history (pre-fame Abstract Expressionists working for the WPA) and developed it into a bigger story about family, mental illness, and the Holocaust. Her depiction of Depression-era New York City felt genuine and vivid; I never had Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

I was so thrilled when I heard about this to find an art history novel that isn't about the Impressionists or the Italian Renaissance. So few and far between! I loved that the author took a little-known piece of art history (pre-fame Abstract Expressionists working for the WPA) and developed it into a bigger story about family, mental illness, and the Holocaust. Her depiction of Depression-era New York City felt genuine and vivid; I never had to remind myself of the setting, nor did it feel over-described (as can sometimes be the case with historical fiction). Unfortunately, Danielle's character in the modern-day sections felt really underdeveloped to me and I never connected with her until the very end of the book. I appreciated what the author was doing with the structure, so I wish I'd liked those sections more. But my enjoyment of the rest of the book overshadows that complaint - hooray!

(And, holy cow, the publication timing for a book about the debate over refugees is eerily prescient for current events. So many lines were identical to arguments being made by politicians today...did the author and the publisher have a crystal ball???) ...more
3

Mar 12, 2016

I enjoyed B.A. Shapiro's novel The Art Forger and I enjoyed this novel as well. I dislike the current trend of telling the story in 2 narratives set many years apart, but I realize many historical novels use this device. This was an interesting story set in 1939-1941 in New York as the United States is still trying to avoid entering World War II. There was a huge refugee crisis building in Europe and the isolationists were fighting hard to keep our borders closed. Shapiro has created Alizee I enjoyed B.A. Shapiro's novel The Art Forger and I enjoyed this novel as well. I dislike the current trend of telling the story in 2 narratives set many years apart, but I realize many historical novels use this device. This was an interesting story set in 1939-1941 in New York as the United States is still trying to avoid entering World War II. There was a huge refugee crisis building in Europe and the isolationists were fighting hard to keep our borders closed. Shapiro has created Alizee Benoit, an artist raised in the US, now working for the WPA and placed her in the center of a group of artists: Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock. Through Alizee, she tells the stories of Jewish people living outside of Germany who were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps in Poland, while groups in the US were fighting the officials who were ignoring the situation in Europe, or worse, actively barring people from the US. It is a powerful story and Shapiro's writing exposed me to another part of Word War II which was new to me. This is really 3 1/2 stars, losing a half for the dual narratives. ...more
5

Mar 17, 2016

I simply loved this book. Not only did it include an important theme about the horrendous mass murders caused by a leader preying upon hatred or marginalization of a religious group, it portrayed what happens when we stand by and do nothing to counteract it. Although it was published prior to this year's political events, it seems as if now seems even more starkly revealing of important historical events that we should not be forgetting. Marginalization and hatred lead to despicable acts I simply loved this book. Not only did it include an important theme about the horrendous mass murders caused by a leader preying upon hatred or marginalization of a religious group, it portrayed what happens when we stand by and do nothing to counteract it. Although it was published prior to this year's political events, it seems as if now seems even more starkly revealing of important historical events that we should not be forgetting. Marginalization and hatred lead to despicable acts especially when leaders use them for their own political gain. While B.A. Shapiro does a credible job of reminding those who read her book of this, she also portrays art and creativity in such a way that it can be seen as the light in a dark world. ...more
4

Nov 07, 2015

See my review and others here: http://onceuponatime-bookblog.blogspo...

Alizee Benoit is an American painter from France who is working on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) mural project in New York City when World War II breaks out. Even though she is far away from the war, she worries constantly about the rest of her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. As she tries to get visas for her family to come to the United States, she faces other personal and political obstacles. And See my review and others here: http://onceuponatime-bookblog.blogspo...

Alizee Benoit is an American painter from France who is working on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) mural project in New York City when World War II breaks out. Even though she is far away from the war, she worries constantly about the rest of her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. As she tries to get visas for her family to come to the United States, she faces other personal and political obstacles. And then she suddenly disappears and her family and friends never hear from her again.

Seventy years later, her great-niece Danielle is still looking for answers. Also an artist, Danielle finds a series of paints that she thinks may have been done Alizee. Dealing with her own problems in her personal life, she connect with the story of her great-aunt and is determined to find the truth that she is looking for.

I have read a lot of books about World War II and the holocaust and am always surprised when I read one that looks at a new aspect of the war. For this book, it was the obstacles that European refugees faces in order to obtain visas to immigrate to the United States. I'm not sure how many of the details were completely accurate, but the author told an interesting and unique story of a women's struggle to save her family when she was 1,000s of miles away with essentially no power to do so. I was struck by Alizee's families letters about the treatment of the Jewish people and their desperation to leave the country. I also really liked the incorporation of art and the WPA and the story was very compelling.

The main reason I gave this book 4 instead of 5 stars was because it was way too predictable. I figured out end of the story from pretty much the very beginning and there were a lot of details that seemed to fit too perfectly together in order to make the story to work. I found myself rolling my eyes a few too many times (especially towards the end), but it was all-in-all a very enjoyable book. ...more
4

Feb 18, 2017

3.5 Stars
This is my first book by B.A. Shapiro. I was very excited to read this book as my favorite genre is historical fiction, but also because I love art and the one type of art that I know the least of is abstract expressionism. In this book, Shapiro creates fictional characters intermingling with real people and historical events, e.g., Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko with the birth of abstract expressionism, and Eleanor Roosevelt and Breckinridge Long facing the difficult times of World 3.5 Stars
This is my first book by B.A. Shapiro. I was very excited to read this book as my favorite genre is historical fiction, but also because I love art and the one type of art that I know the least of is abstract expressionism. In this book, Shapiro creates fictional characters intermingling with real people and historical events, e.g., Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko with the birth of abstract expressionism, and Eleanor Roosevelt and Breckinridge Long facing the difficult times of World War II and refugees trying to immigrate to America. This book is told from different perspectives during the 1940s and the present as one of the characters, is trying to find her lost great aunt. I enjoyed reading this book for the most part. My only problem with the plot is how predictable the ending is and not very believable. I would probably still recommend this book.
This was my favorite quote:
”It’s all the horrors rolled into one. Not just guns and soldiers but families . . .” Alizée’s voice grew hoarse. “The children.” “And the world’s refusal to help. It breaks my heart to think we turned our backs when they asked so little of us.” ...more
2

Jul 20, 2016

The Muralist was a difficult read and I was tempted to abandon the novel on numerous occasions. I thought the characters were lacking depth and substance, the plot was flimsy and far-fetched and the writing was amateurish and inept. On the positive, I had forgotten my art history and I did enjoy reading about Abstract Expressionism and the premier artists of that era.
4

Nov 10, 2018

I really enjoyed The Muralist, but then again, I enjoy art. The twists and turns would have kept my interest even without the artistic and historic (Eleanor Roosevelt) references, and the pacing of the sleuthing and intrigue suited me perfectly.

I also enjoy Shapiro's style: easy to read, some lovely turns of phrase, and never falling into the trap of over-writing.

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