For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.
For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.
Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.
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.
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.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Dutton for a free copy of this book for review.
This review was originally posted on The Book Cover Judge on August 27, 2018.