The masterpiece A novel

Fiona Davis, 1966-

Book - 2018

"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, s...he 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. 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"--

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Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
Mystery fiction
Published
New York, New York : Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC [2018]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
350 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9781524742959
1524742953
Main Author
Fiona Davis, 1966- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

As she did with the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse (2016) and the Dakota in The Address (2017), Davis uses an iconic NYC building as the backdrop for the story of two women whose lives intersect across time. Here, the building is Grand Central Terminal. The terminal once housed the Grand Central School of Art (founded by John Singer Sargent, among others), and Clara Darden is an instructor there in 1928. She finds success as an illustrator, but her hopes to make a mark as a truly modern artist are thwarted by the Depression. In the 1970s, Virginia Clay, struggling after a recent divorce, lands a job at the information booth of the no-longer-so-grand terminal, which is threatened with demolition. She stumbles across the now-shuttered art school and discovers a mysterious watercolor, which starts her on a quest to identify the artist. She also helps to save the terminal from the wrecking ball. Davis is a maximalist when it comes to plot elements, and not everything convinces, but the use she makes of New York history is always interesting. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Two independent women, living 50 years apart, find themselves working at Grand Central Terminal in New York City. In 1928, the station is home to the Grand Central School of Art, where Clara Darden is the lone female teacher. As a woman artist, Clara struggles against the sexism of the day but finds success as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and an interior designer for Studebaker. As the Depression hits, the art school closes, jobs for artists dry up, and Clara is torn between a quiet poet and a passionate painter. Meanwhile, in 1974, Virginia Clay, a recent divorcée and breast cancer survivor, is forced to find work for the first time in her life. Taking a position at the information booth at the now rundown terminal, she is falling in love with the historic building. When it's marked for demolition and redevelopment, a mysterious painting found in an abandoned studio links the two women. VERDICT Davis (The Dollhouse; The Address) has written another paean to a New York City landmark. Historical fiction fans will love the compelling dual narrators and time periods perfectly captured in this novel based on the history of one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world. [See Prepub Alert, 2/19/18.]—Catherine Coyne, Mansfield P.L., MA Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Davis's splendid third novel (following The Dollhouse and The Address) takes readers back in time to the New York of the 1970s and the late '20s, centering on Grand Central Station. In 1928 New York City, illustrator and artist Clara Darden teaches at the Grand Central School of Art. Confident and brash, Clara scrapes by until she secures employment drawing illustrations for Vogue. Clara's romantic involvement with budding poet Oliver Smith changes her life as they enjoy the parties of New York's elite and she gains notoriety for her art. Her life takes a turn, however, as her friendship with mercurial artist Levon Zakarian threatens her relationship with Oliver, and the stock market crash of 1929 devastates the country. Fast-forward to 1974 when divorcee Virginia Clay gets a job at Grand Central's information booth. While exploring the abandoned art school, Virginia finds a painting by Clara Darden that looks very similar to a painting she had seen in an auction catalogue, leading her to believe that Clara may be the artist known as Clyde, whose valuable painting will soon be auctioned by Sotheby's. Virginia searches for the artist who painted the Clyde as she seeks to unravel the circumstances behind Clara's disappearance in 1931. Davis entices with a fast-paced mystery and expertly reveals parallels between the two periods in New York and between Clara and Virginia, resulting in a true crowd-pleaser. (Aug.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A recently divorced information-booth worker stumbles on an abandoned art school within a crumbling Grand Central Terminal before learning the story of a talented woman artist who went missing fifty years earlier.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A recently divorced information-booth worker stumbles on an abandoned art school within a crumbling Grand Central Terminal before learning the story of a talented woman artist who went missing 50 years earlier. By the national best-selling author of The Dollhouse and The Address.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"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 artscene. 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"--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

In this captivating novel, national bestselling author 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. For most New Yorkers, 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. It is 1928, and Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. Though not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist," fiery Clara is single-minded in her quest to achieve every creative success'even while juggling the affections of two very different men. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression...and that even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come. By 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Dilapidated and dangerous, 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, 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.