The Masterpiece

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

Divine. Fiona Davis is the master of bridging the past and more recent past, and The Masterpiece is no exception.
Focused on the history of Grand Central, The Masterpiece flashes between two women - the art teacher and budding illustrator Clara Darden, and divorcee Virginia Clay who finds herself finding herself working in a dilapidated Grand Central Terminal. The book goes back and forth between Clara's career and Virginia's discovery of Clara's art school, and subsequently Clara itself. 
The writing is perfectly balanced between flowery (in the best way) details and swift pacing of both women's stories. Each character is slowly unraveled over the course of the book to reveal their full nature, and the book has the classic Davis twist that will leave you mind spinning, your heart full, and with the pure satisfaction of having read an excellent book.
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The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is about two women, fifty years apart, whose parallel stories suddenly intersect at New York City's historic Grand Central. It's clearly well researched regarding what was happening at the train station in the late 1920s and early 1970s, on the verge of the Great Depression, and later, at risk of being demolished. 
I am a character-driven reader and this book's characters did not grab me. I sympathized with them as they both had struggles they had to overcome, but even with those struggles I failed to connect and care for them. Because I never connected to the characters, a fairly predictable plot, and many convenient coincidences this book just didn't work for me. It had interesting elements, namely Grand Central Station, so I can see why people have enjoyed this book.
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Once again, Fiona Davis takes a time period and melds a wonderful story. While a bit long, I grew attached to the characters and their world.
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Cover Review
As with her other books, Davis has another winner in the cover department. All of her covers have the same vibe and are immediately attractive to the eye. The coloring of this one, with the golden background and lovely pop of blue just make this an outstanding cover for me.

Book Review
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I am in love with Fiona Davis. She is one of the Must Buy authors for me. She is able to spin a tale so glorious that you never want it to end. I tend to leave her books, missing the characters as they have become my new best friends.

The Masterpiece does not disappoint. Written in similar fashion to The Dollhouse and The Address, this wonderful historical fiction piece is told in two perspectives. We have Clara — an illustrator in the 1920s trying to catch a break in the art world — to weave the backdrop for Virginia in the 1970s, recently divorced and trying to find her new place in the world. Both women are equally interesting, with their plots both being equally fascinating to read. However, Clara was someone who I just adored. This entire book could have been about Clara’s life and I would have been just as happy. However, Virginia’s spunk and tenacity is something that cannot be overlooked.

I loved the small mystery part of this story. I love how Davis is able to give you hints to what’s to come in Virginia’s story when you’re reading about Clara, all while discovering more about Clara’s story when Virginia is center stage.

The characters, of course, are just wonderful, as is the plot. There is never a slow part in this story. Davis breaks up the sections and switches perspectives so beautifully, just like the pro she is. And the writing! I cannot get enough of her.

I give this book a very happy 4 stars. Beautiful cover, story and characters. This is definitely a story I can see myself jumping into again.
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The Masterpiece is the second Fiona Davis book I’ve read.  After inhaling The Address, I have waited patiently for her next title.  And the wait was worth it.  The latest book is again a nearly seamless blending of past and present.  This time the story revolves around Grand Central Station in New York City.  Introducing the reader to Grand Central in the late 1920’s and then in 1974, Davis reveals the story of two women, from different eras, who both learn to adapt to their circumstances and, eventually, develop an inner strength they didn’t realize they had.

The story weaves itself around fictional characters and historical events.  This is done so well that the reader will often stop and wonder if something or someone is real or simply the invention of the author’s imagination.  More than once I found myself looking up a name or event to see if it was something that had actually happened.  

The characters are well-drawn and the descriptions of NYC landmarks, fashion and social customs is amazing. It is obvious that Ms Davis does a lot of research for her books, thus assuring a high level of historical accuracy.  I can only imagine how much fun it was to investigate the history of New York City and its Grand Central Station. (and how much fun it would be to act as her research assistant!) 

Thank you, Ms Davis, for providing hours of reading pleasure.  I was entertained and educated, as well as reminded how some of our great historical treasures have been threatened with extinction.  All in all, The Masterpiece was an excellent read.

Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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I received an advanced reading copy of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

In my eyes, Fiona Davis has become the breakout leader in the dual timeline narrative. In this latest publication, Davis weaves an intricate web. Passion, love, determination, strength, and self- awareness are combined with a well written history of the efforts to save Grand Central Station in NY. The characters are utterly irresistible as they grapple with the cards that life has dealt them. The book was so captivating that I could scarcely put it down! I was so utterly engrossed in the story that I finished the book in one day!
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What a glorious way to spend a day or two, lost in the pages of this book and in Grand Central Station both older and even older. I loved the tale this book told. Both women were such strong characters who I came to care for. The setting was fabulous, I felt I was right there along with the characters and of course Grand Central was a character all it’s own. 
I received an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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What a beautiful novel, The Masterpiece is. I couldn't put it down. Once Again, Fiona Davis has created a book worthy of the New York Times top ten books. 

At first, I wasn't in love with Virginia Clay, I found her struggle a little lacking, a typical divorcee who doesn't have the skills to cope with her singleness, then we got deeper into her story and her desire to get to know the things of the past which in turn made her a stronger woman. Virginia's story was definitely not  as enduring as I found Clara Darden's story. Clara became my hero, she became the one to cheer on and clap hands for when she finally accomplished what she started out to do with Virginia's hinderance and then help. Thank heavens for women like Clara who forged ahead in the fight for noticeability when it came to being considered a great artist. I am so thankful for all women who fought for that right to be included as rivals to men in the arts. 

I admire Fiona Davis for writing such a timely matter. This book was written in extraordinarily lyrical words. Words that helped to see, and smell the grand building of Grand Central Station (Terminal). I am so happy that that beautiful building was saved, I am glad that I have been able to arrive and depart in it's terminals and eat lunch in its eateries and grab a few black and white cookies in it's bakeries.  I am extremely glad that Ms. Davis wrote about the Grand Central Art School during it's heyday. It makes this New Yorker happy to have had the privilege of reading this book ahead of publication.  Ms. Davis' descriptive words led me to want to be one of Clara's Bohemian friends. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. :)
Thank you Net Galley, and especially Dutton, and Penguin for the chance in lieu of my honest opinion.
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This book could not keep me interested. I got lost with the characters and the storytime was not consistent. I enjoyed the author's previous books but this one is a bummer.
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I love Fiona's books!!  I had been looking forward to reading this book since her last one and it did not disappoint.  Her writing is flawless.  She does New York City history like no one else!!  I loved learning about Grand Central Station as well as becoming engrossed her storytelling!!
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"The Masterpiece", a novel by Fiona Davis was the first book that I've read from this author.  This historical novel is set in both 1928 and 1974 and set in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  If you've never been there, Grand Central is a stunning piece of architecture.

Back in 1928, there is an art school, Grand Central School of Art, that is well-regarded amongst artists.  We are introduced to Clara, an extremely talented illustrator, who is the only woman teaching at the school.

In 1974, we are introduced to newly divorced and single mother, Virginia, who is working in the terminal information booth when she discovers the art school after ducking into a storage room for a quickie with her boss.  While Virginia learns to become her own woman, she works to bring recognition to the unknown artist and to save a historical building.

I really enjoyed "The Masterpiece" and look forward to reading more works by Fiona Davis.
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This was a fun read. This story definitely reminded me of The Muse, which I loved. I loved the feminist characters and seeing them grow in a time period when so much oppression occurred. Definitely recommend.
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Clara Darden is an aspiring artist in the early years of the 20th century. Virginia Clay is a recent divorcee, survivor of a serious illness, and is recently back in the workforce in the mid 1970s. The link that ties these two together is Grand Central, the massive and stunningly elegant train station in the heart of Manhattan. 

Like many historical fiction titles today, The Masterpiece is told through two storylines spanning decades, with Grand Central serving as the obvious common trait. However, as Clara and Virginia's stories move along, you find that there are many more connections between these two women, the struggles they had to endure, and the one thing that will bring them together.

Although each woman's story is powerful and intriguing on its own, it is the reverence for Grand Central that shines through this book, serving almost as another silent character rather than simply just a setting. It's history and its legacy shine through on the pages.
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Over the last few years Fiona Davis has added several books to my TBR but this was the first one I've picked up.  It definitely won't be the last.  Dual timelines are tricky at times.  Don't make them distinct enough and they're confusing.  If one plot is more intense than the other than one feels like a waste of time.  This was a good balance which made for an enjoyable read.  The time periods picked were smart.  1920s New York and 1970s New York might as well be on different planets and I liked that both women were facing very timely issues that felt appropriate for the time periods they existed in.

First, we had Clara in the 1920s desperately trying to make it as an illustrator and completely on her own in the city.  Clara is ambitious and opinionated and scared.  She gets so frustrated by the injustices and just the futility of trying to get someone to listen to her at times and I liked that she didn't always have the words to express her frustration which made her a character I could really relate too.  She wasn't always the most likable and at times I felt like her decisions were questionable but I enjoyed her story and was dying to find out just what had happened.

50 years later in a much more dangerous and run down Grand Central we have Virginia.  I really sympathized with Virginia who has found herself, after surviving breast cancer, newly and unexpectedly divorced.  She's trying to start over again and find her footing as herself even though she was a bit reluctant to do so.  My grandmother found herself divorced about this time period so I think that made this storyline a little more poignant for me.  As well, I loved a good discovery based plot and I was fascinated by Virginia's discovery of the illustrations and her fascination with them had me heavily invested.  

I found this to be a quick read.  The characters weren't the most likable but I did find them to be sympathetic and interesting.  I'm so glad I took the time to finally read Fiona Davis and I'm already looking forward to reading more from her.
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Recent historical novels by Fiona Davis (The Dollhouse, The Address) have been very popular and feature New York City locations (Barbizon Hotel and The Dakota). I requested an advance reader copy of her newest, THE MASTERPIECE, and found it entertaining and informative. In this novel Davis focuses on the beautiful architecture of Grand Central Terminal (or Grand Central Station as it is often incorrectly, though more affectionately, called) and the art movements of the 1920s through two intertwining stories.  One is set in the 1970s (when the station's demolition was being adjudicated) with a recent divorcee, Virginia, obtaining an entry level job with the railroad and discovering a hidden painting. That painting was created roughly 50 years earlier and relates to the more compelling second story about fictional Clara Darden, an aspiring illustrator and instructor at Grand Central School of Art (which did actually exist). There's a bit of mystery here and some wonderful historical detail, especially for readers who know and love New York City. THE MASTERPIECE received a starred review from Library Journal and was a LibraryReads selection for August 2018.
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Like all Fiona Davis books, I loved this one!! Great historical fiction. Very well written, and well researched.
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Fiona Davis makes me yearn to have been born in a different time, preferably whatever time she's using as the setting for her books. 

In The Masterpiece, she takes us to late 20s and mid-70s New York, and she makes both captivating and fascinating. 

She starts with Clara Darden, a young illustrator and art instructor who came to New York with dreams of Vogue illustrations. What she doesn't know is that the wide-open possibilities of New York are about to come to a crashing end with the Depression. She also doesn't know that her own hopes will come to a similar conclusion thanks to a nefarious individual who only wants to use her.

Nearly fifty years later, Virginia Clay discovers the art school hidden in Grand Central Station, which is either going to be refurbished and designated as a landmark or gutted and destroyed. Her determination to learn more about the school and its artists leads her to try to find Clara, and, in the process, bring closure to something that has plagued the other woman. Virginia comes to view the potential demolition of Grand Central as a metaphor for herself, her body pockmarked with similar damage as the station. I particularly loved the parallels Fiona Davis drew between Virginia and Grand Central Station. They are poignant and thought-provoking.

Going back and forth between the 20s and 70s, Fiona Davis seeps you in the heady world of art and the changing role of women. Not much has changed in nearly a century, even as we tout advancement. People are people, Fiona Davis tells us. Who we are at our cores does not depend on time or place. Look at art. The people depicted in paintings share the same desires and needs and demons as the rest of us, even if we aren't lucky enough to be a part of a masterpiece.
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The Masterpiece is a joy to read. The story of a young women determined to provide her own way in the world, not relying on anyone, in a time when young ladies were expected to marry young, have babies, and be a good wife. Clara wants to paint and draw and make a career of it, and she does, but just before she is going to find the ultimate success, tragedy strikes. Forty years later, Virginia is a divorcee who has to get a job to support herself, after losing a lavish lifestyle with her ex-huband. Virginia finds a painting in a long forgotten place, and while researching the artist and it's value, finds her own self worth and value in life. In the end, these two stories intertwine in a beautiful way. 

I loved the writing and the story. The courage and self confidence of both women was motivating and inspiring to me. If you have the chance to read this, you must pick up a copy!
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A beautifully well crafted story told in an elegant and lyrical style. This is a book that will remain with you long after you finish the last page. Fiona Davis is an artisan in her craft and you don't want to miss this book from her. I simply couldn't put it down once I started reading it so make sure you have plenty of time to devote to this amazing story.
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The Masterpiece follows the linear stories of Clara and Virginia, two women finding their way through patriarchal society, 50 years apart. 

Clara is an illustrator and art teacher at the Grand Central School of Art in the decadent 20s, on the precipice of the Great Depression. Clara is an ambitious and independent young woman. Unorthodoxy for that period of time, Clara leaves her family in Arizona, moves across the country to NYC, lives alone, is business minded, and is goal oriented. In a time where young women were expected to get married and build a home, Clara is focused on building her career and taking her art to the next level. 

Fifty years later in 1974, Virginia is in a very different situation. Virginia is in her 40s with an 18 year old daughter, and is fresh out of a divorce. While Virginia has lived through the second wave of feminism, she married young and devoted her life to being a homemaker. After surviving breast cancer and a divorce, she is starting to find her identity outside of her husband and the society she’s accustomed to. Virginia starts as a temp at Grand Central Terminal which begins her journey of self discovery. 

I love the dichotomy between the two time periods and lead female characters. I love how the author weaved threads of connection between the two stories. I enjoyed the journeys of self-realization, self- actualization, and female empowerment. I appreciated the nostalgia of Grand Central Station of old and the idea that it could hold secrets of the past. 

Who knew there really was an art school in Grand Central Terminal? I also didn’t know that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis really did help GCT acquire landmark status in the 70s. 

Overall, this book was everything historical fiction should be: believable, transportive to a different time and place, while also having depth and substance. I would absolutely recommend!
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