The Masterpiece

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

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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Fiona Davis has taken a famous location and created two worlds full of women struggling to find their voice.

The Masterpiece is the story of Clara and Virginia and their lives. Clara is an artist, in the lost Grand Central School of Art. She teaches a few students, does illustrations for magazine ...all while waiting on her big break. 50 years later, Virginia works in the information booth in the middle of Grand Central. It's dark, it's dirty, it's full of mysteries around every corner. 

Clara's journey leads to the cover of Vogue magazine and an artist's retreat to Maine, where she finds her true artistry. Then...she disappears. Virginia is working to solve the mystery of the Grand Central School of Art. And then....she finds the painting. 

Fiona Davis writes easily. She creates worlds that are familiar and full of nostalgia. Maybe because I live in New York and know Grand Central well, but it was easy to let my mind drift to the Oyster Bar, or the staircase and see Virginia or Clara darting across the floor. I've already purchased Ms. Davis's other books, because I want to live in her worlds. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I’m in love! I have added a new writer to my list of those whom I’ll read everything they write! I have wanted to read Fiona Davis’ first two books, “The Address” and “The Dollhouse,’ but somehow they never quite reached the top of my TBR list before there was a wait list at the library. It was this latest novel that made me determined to read it; something about the cover clicked in my heart, and I couldn’t let it go. Thanks to NetGallery and Penguin Random House I got my hands on a first edition, which I devoured in three evenings. 

The story’s structure is one of my favorites, dualing timelines. The story vacillates between 1928/30 and 1974/6. I think I know why Davis chose the mid-1970s to place the second part of the story, but I won’t tell. No spoilers here!

In 1928, Clara Darden is an artist, an illustrator, working as a teacher at the Grand Central School of Art. She is also a freelance illustrator. Her students are dropping out at an alarming rate, and she fears not being asked back next semester. Part of the reason is that she is a woman, the only one among the remaining manly faculty. A number of the faculty becomes prominent artists, but not Clara, well not really 

Fast forward to 1974. Virginia Clay is a newly divorced woman, still somewhat stuck in her 1950s role as housewife and mother. She is applying for a job, which takes her to the rundown facility that is an eyesore, Grand Central Station. It’s dirty, infested with drug addicts, and has almost been deserted. The terminal’s owners have their office under the buildings eaves. After blowing her interview, she asks for the restroom key and heads down the hallway. Instead of the facilities, she finds herself in the abandoned art school. Pictures still hang from the walls, and although the place is covered in dust, it looks as if the students had just been yesterday. As luck would have it, Virginia is offered a job in the Information Booth, with a cast of odd characters. This gives her a chance to further explore the old art school, but is stunned to discover that someone else is also haunting the area. Then, Virginia finds a painting that could set the art world on its ear. A painting that someone is willing to kill to own.

I loved the juxtaposition of the art/art school and the architecture of Grand Central as masterpieces. Both Clara and Virginia are well drawn (no pun intended) and fascinating women, both with a stubborn streak that just begins to make itself known. I can’t wait to meet Davis when she comes to St. Louis on her book tour. 

 “The Masterpiece,” receives 6 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
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I really enjoyed this book. The story is set in two time periods 50 years apart in NYC and it revolves around Grand Central Terminal. In the 1920’s the terminal was beautiful and it’s history is told throughout the book. In the 1970’s the terminal is anything but beautiful and is on the verge of being torn down. There are two main characters in the book, one for each timeline, and they are strong intelligent women. I love books about NYC and this one has been meticulously researched. I was lucky enough to visit NYC a couple of years ago and I already had a fascination with Grand Central Terminal and it’s restoration as well as Jackie Kennedy’s involvement with it. I took an excellent guided tour there so it was interesting to read about many of the things mentioned in the tour as well as learn so many more facts. I found this book to be well written and the twist at the end really completed it.
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Central to this novel is the beautiful New York City landmark, Grand Central Terminal. It connects the story of two women almost 50 years apart. Clara Darden, in 1928, is the only female teacher at the Grand Central School of Art. While teaching, she is also struggling to make her mark on the art world, where male artists still dominate. As she starts to have success, the Great Depression

In 1974, Virginia Clay, finds herself newly divorced and struggling to make her way in a world that is so different from what she knew as the society wife of an attorney. Her lack of job skills, land her a job working in the information booth at Grand Central, where she admires the dilapidated beauty of the terminal. Lost in the terminal one day, she opens the door to the abandoned art school and finds a painting that may give a clue into what happened to the mysterious, famous Clara Darden that disappeared in 1931. At the same time, the terminal is under threat from developers who want to build a skyscraper over the terminal, consigning it to the fate of Penn Station and so many other destroyed city landmarks.

Its easy to get caught up in the author's novels. She really knows how to bring the past alive and I've enjoyed all three of her NYC landmark novels. Her gritty depiction of NYC in the 1970s fits quite well with the city I remember as a child. I like how she worked a celebrity appearance into the novel; a celebrity, that had a huge part in helping Grand Central stand as it does today. When the two plots intersected, it was a pleasant surprise that I didn't foresee, and it led to a satisfying conclusion.
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3.5 STARS  - The Masterpiece is a historical fiction novel set in New York City in two different eras (1920's and 1970's) that follows the lives of two women who share a connection with Grand Central Terminal. Davis weaves these points of view with rich historical details of both eras and, most especially, the vivid descriptions of Grand Central in her glory days as well as later when its very existence is threatened.

The story is told using dual narratives of Clara in the 1920's and Virginia fifty years later and while I enjoyed their stories - especially how they intersected with the Terminal and their mutual struggles as women in male dominated eras - I can't say that I was connected to either beyond a superficial level.  My favourite character of the book was actually Grand Central herself - the history, layout and grandeur of the historic train terminal, including how people, some quite famous, fought to preserve this iconic Terminal as others threatened to destroy it in the name of progress. (And yes, it's Grand Central Terminal, not station as I quickly learned from this book). 

This was an enjoyable read and while I found the plot a little predictable, it was an easy read and I enjoyed learning more about this well-known structure that is so deeply embedded in the history of NYC. I believe this book will inspire some readers to research more into the rich and long history of this well-known building. I know it's inspired me to put a return trip to New York City closer to the top of my vacation bucket list so I can finally see this iconic structure for myself.
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Reading The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is like visiting New York City of years ago.  A beautiful depiction of another time and place, and a compelling story.
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Fiona Davis's The Masterpiece is every bit a masterpiece in writing as her title.
"Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them."
This book is full of great characters, mystery, love, loss and redemption. Everything a great book needs, this one has. I would give it more than 5 stars if possible.
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Last year, I was completely obsessed with The Address by Fiona Davis. I quickly discovered that Davis was a masterful storyteller with the capability to completely entrance her reader. Needless to say, I ran to the bookstore, picked up her other novel (The Dollhouse) and waited patiently for her next publication. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!! 

The Masterpiece, the newest release by Fiona Davis, was just as brilliant as I expected. Like her other novels, The Masterpiece tells two linear stories (fifty years apart) where two different women (Clara, an illustrator, and Virginia, a divorcee) try to figure out their place in a male dominated world. I absolutely loved this concept and I found myself completely connecting to both Clara and Virginia. There is such an element of nostalgia to Davis’ work and she has an ability to make me feel like the experiences were my own. Her descriptions, down to the smallest details, are so realistic. It truly feels like you are reading memories. 

That being said, as much as I loved her writing style and the characters, there was a bit of redundancy that had me distracted towards the middle of the novel. However, this ended very quickly and by the end, I was completely captivated. 

Overall, I can say with complete confidence that I am pretty much obsessed with the work of Fiona Davis and will anxiously await her next novel. If you are a fan of any sort of historical fiction or a story that builds tension while focusing on character relationships, you will absolutely devour The Masterpiece. I know I did.
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I love love love this book! It is my first Fiona Davis book, but I am going to go back and read her previous work. The descriptions of Grand Central Station both in the 20s and 70s were perfect. I felt I could really see what it was and how it changed over 50 years. Also, I am not an artist, but I do appreciate art and love the story of Clara and Levon at the art school in Grand Central in the 1920s. I was happy to read that those characters were based off of real faculty members of the school. This story was filled with historical architecture and events, mystery and intrigued, and wonderful characters. I love how the two periods of time came together toward the end and all the mystery came to satisfying conclusions. I also feel that this story stresses what the role of women in society has been and still is in many ways. Here is a quote from Clara talking to Levon who is giving private art lessons with benefits in the 1930s: "If the situation were reversed, and I was asked by the idle, rich men of New York to tutor them in the 'painterly arts,' I could never boast of it. I would be considered a disgrace, a prostitute, whoring myself out." Clara struggles her whole life to get the same recognition for her work and talent that most men get immediately. The connection between her and Virginia, whose story begins after she has suffered a mastectomy and a divorce in the 1970s, makes so much sense. They both were overshadowed by men but found their own strength and voice and success. This is one of my favorite reads!
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Oh my goooodness, this one is just as good as her two others I have recently read. I love that each book has taken me back to the time and place it was set in and The Masterpiece was no exception. I absolutely cannot wait for her to put out more historical fiction. I like how she continues to write in dual narrative - it keeps you wanting more after every chapter. This book introduced me to the seduction of the early art world which I admittedly didn't know much about and found fascinating on the pages.  I will be posting my full review on Goodreads in the days to come.

Thank you again for the advanced copy, I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

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All the stars!!! Seriously, I couldn't be more excited about The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis. This was my first time reading a book by her and it will clearly not be my last.

What it's about: Told in dual timelines, we get the stories of Clara Darden who is a female painter and illustrator in the 1920's, and the story of Virginia Clay which is set in the 1970s and largely deals with the fight to save Grand Central Terminal. Throw in a mystery about a watercolor and an anonymous painter named "Clyde" and we have quite the story. I loved how both timelines came together to form one story and the progression of both stories as their separate entities. 

The Masterpiece is truly historical fiction at its finest, and I was fascinated with everything about Grand Central Terminal and The Grand Central School of Art. I know this is a work of fiction, but it definitely seemed like there was a lot of truth to the story as well and it blew me away more than a little bit.

Davis has some of the best writing I have ever experienced, and I found myself completely enamored with the story. This book was an incredibly quick read and offers so much more than just historical fiction. There is so much wisdom on relationships, and a nice little dose of romance as well. Not all the characters are completely lovable, but I loved them all just the same in different ways and for what they all do for the story. Complex characters, a terrific plot, and some fun surprises make this a 5 star read plus more.

This book is also incredibly witty and made me laugh out loud multiple times. I experienced a full spectrum of emotions while reading it and I didn't want the story to ever end because I loved it so much. 

Final Thought: I don't want to talk about the plot too much because I think this book is best experienced going in blind like I did. Going into it, I had heard amazing things about Fiona Davis and knew I had to read this book no matter what it was about. If you like historical fiction then I highly recommend The Masterpiece even if you aren't necessarily interested in painting or Grand Central. Even if you just appreciate her writing, this is definitely worth the read!
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You know what I loved most about this story? I didn’t prefer one storyline over the other. I was always disappointed when one stopped and the other one started, then I’d get sucked into that one only to get displaced again. Usually, I find in dual storylines, that one is compelling me to turn the pages more than the other, but that wasn’t the case in this one. I got totally immersed in each story as I read it.

The Masterpiece joins this year’s offerings featuring Grand Central Station and is a stand out in good company. Loved the history offered up in both stories and so glad that common sense prevailed in saving the grand old place. Some history should never be abandoned.

This story earns all five of it’s stars!

I received an ARC of this title. All opinions are my own.
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There is always anticipation surrounding the release of any book by Fiona Davis and it's for good reason. She's one of the masters at writing high quality historical fiction. This book secures that in spades.
I read - and relished - The Address and can say the same for this novel. Told in dual timelines, with the sweeping setting of Grand Central Station as it's homebase, it's unputdownable. 
If you enjoy historical fiction, be sure to read this one.
I received an Advance Review Copy. All opinions are my own.
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The Masterpiece was a captivating historic fiction told in two distinct perspectives that were equally intriguing. They worked well together, helping to amp up the drama for both sides of the story. First there was Clara, tough to the point where I sometimes found her unlikable, but I respected the fact that she did not feel the need to be liked as she struggled to be respected in the male-dominated art industry of the 1920s. Then, there was sweet, determined Virginia who pulled on her own quiet strength to get through the problems she was faced with. While I sometimes rolled my eyes at her naivete, I knew that for the most part, there were good intentions behind it. The plot was intriguing. While I found it slightly predictable, I was still gobbling up every clue as both women revealed details of Clara’s life and how that past was still creating waves decades later. I was a little let down by the “surprise twist” but it didn’t greatly affect my enjoyment in the story. Topped off with the history of Grand Central Station, both at its highest and its lowest, this was a delectable mystery I enjoyed following.
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This novel follows two women, Virginia and Clara. Both are amazing! Clara is a young woman in the 1920’s. She becomes a famous illustrator…in the 1920’s, an awesome feat! Virginia is learning to be a divorced, single mom in the 1970’s. When Virginia discovers the abandoned art school in Grand Central Terminal, it leads her on a path unlike any other.

Clara and Virginia both are unique women determined to make their way in this world. They both struggle to make a go at it. Clara trying to be an artist/illustrator. And Virginia is just trying to survive after her marriage has fallen apart. I loved both of these characters, especially Clara. Or maybe I just enjoyed her time period better.

Y’all! This book!!! This book is super! It grabs you from the first word and never lets you go! The history is abundant and the mystery surrounding Clara is completely captivating.

This novel is inundated with rich details of the Grand Central Terminal. Makes me want to go back and explore. This story is superbly written and well researched. I fell in love with the characters and the setting. I could go on and on…riveting, captivating…but you get the idea!

I received this novel from the publisher via Netgalley.
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A great historical fiction novel. I particularly liked the setting of Grand Central Terminal, as I commuted through there for years when I worked and lived in NYC. This book has a dual timeline which follows two female protagonists, one in the 1920s when Grand Central and its art school were in their heyday, and one in the 1970s when Grand Central needed saving! I am so lucky that I got to see Grand Central in the 1990s and early 2000s when it looked beautiful and is in top form yet again. I enjoyed both of the characters and time periods, and loved how Fiona Davis wove the stories together at the end. If you like historical fiction, art, strong female protagonists, architecture, or NYC, check this book out!
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THE MASTERPIECE by Fiona Davis is a must-read novel for fans of historical fiction.  As an art history buff, this book was right up my alley.  I love the author’s writing style from her other books and was happy to see this book was more of the same.  Locations play such an important role in her books.  This novel is set in Grand Central Terminal and follows Clara, an artist, in the 1920s and Virginia, a divorcee,  in the 1970s.  You can read the summary for the plot but at the heart of the novel are two women who have had to work hard to find their place in a world that discounts them and find what completes them in a unique way.  Their journeys of mistakes and strength makes this a compulsive read that I read in less than 24 hours. Davis ties these two characters together with an ending that was perfection.  I really loved everything about this book.   While I would probably read a manual on my microwave by this author, I really do think you must read one of her works if you are ready for awesome historical fiction.

I received an Advance Review Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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I loved the history here and loved the setting.  Another great Fiona Davis historical fiction - I loved the characters and the underlying mystery.
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In The Masterpiece, Fiona Davis employs the same format that she has used successfully in her previous two novels. At the center of the the story is an iconic landmark, and the two main characters’ lives unfold in parallel storylines. The Grand Central Terminal in New York City is the centerpiece of this story. The Terminal is a majestic Beaux-Arts architectural wonder, which housed the Grand Central School of Art, run by artist John Singer Sargent. In 1928, gifted illustrator Clara Darden is a teacher at the school, struggling for recognition in the male dominated art world. Flash forward nearly 50 years later, Virginia Clay is a newly divorced, unemployed woman trying to reinvent her life after marriage. The Terminal, once an opulent, bustling hub, has become a seedy, neglected eyesore that is slated for demolition. Virginia stumbles upon the long forgotten art school and is intrigued by the mystery of artist Clara Darden, and joins the battle to save the Terminal. Davis has written two strong storylines which keeps the novel moving at a fast pace. I was particularly drawn to the story of the Grand Central Terminal and its subsequent revival. Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC, all opinions are my own.
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