BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Interesting,
Informative,
Beautiful

12 reviews

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel
by Dominic Smith

Published: 2016-04-05
Hardcover : 304 pages
32 members reading this now
75 clubs reading this now
8 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 11 of 12 members
"Written in prose so clear that we absorb its images as if by mind meld, "The Last Painting" is gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart. Vividly detailed, acutely sensitive to stratifications of ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

"Written in prose so clear that we absorb its images as if by mind meld, "The Last Painting" is gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart. Vividly detailed, acutely sensitive to stratifications of gender and class, it's fiction that keeps you up at night ? first because you're barreling through the book, then because you've slowed your pace to a crawl, savoring the suspense." ?Boston Globe

  • A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
  • A New York Times Bestseller
A RARE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY PAINTING LINKS THREE LIVES, ON THREE CONTINENTS, OVER THREE CENTURIES IN THE LAST PAINTING OF SARA DE VOS, AN EXHILARATING NEW NOVEL FROM DOMINIC SMITH.

Amsterdam, 1631: Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the city's Guild of St. Luke. Though women do not paint landscapes (they are generally restricted to indoor subjects), a wintry outdoor scene haunts Sara: She cannot shake the image of a young girl from a nearby village, standing alone beside a silver birch at dusk, staring out at a group of skaters on the frozen river below. Defying the expectations of her time, she decides to paint it.

New York City, 1957: The only known surviving work of Sara de Vos, At the Edge of a Wood, hangs in the bedroom of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot, a descendant of the original owner. It is a beautiful but comfortless landscape. The lawyer's marriage is prominent but comfortless, too. When a struggling art history grad student, Ellie Shipley, agrees to forge the painting for a dubious art dealer, she finds herself entangled with its owner in ways no one could predict.

Sydney, 2000: Now a celebrated art historian and curator, Ellie Shipley is mounting an exhibition in her field of specialization: female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. When it becomes apparent that both the original At the Edge of a Wood and her forgery are en route to her museum, the life she has carefully constructed threatens to unravel entirely and irrevocably.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of April 2016: Across three continents and four hundred years, Dominic Smith has spun a stunning tale of forgeries and deaths, deception and love to reveal the lasting legacy of a fateful brush stroke. Akin to the page-turning greats like Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is held together by the gravitas of a single painting to tell the story of two women—their mistakes and love affairs, their devotion to art and their struggles to thrive in a male dominated profession. When Ellie Shipley, a young art student, agrees to copy the seventeenth century painting, “At the Edge of a Wood,” her future becomes irrevocably entangled with Sara de Vos, the artist whose work she forged. Weaving together the past and present lives of Sara and Ellie and their two paintings, Smith brilliantly transports readers from 1950s New York - the mahogany walls of Upper West side apartments and the grit of Brooklyn, to the moody Dutch countryside of the 1600s to Sydney Australia’s sun-soaked harbor in 2000. A vivid, enthralling novel that is as timeless and luminous as the painting itself. --Al Woodworth

Excerpt

Upper East Side

NOVEMBER 1957

The painting is stolen the same week the Russians put a dog into space. Plucked from the wall right above the marital bed during a charity dinner for orphans. This is how Marty de Groot will tell the story in the years ahead, how he’ll spin it for the partners at the law firm and quip it to comedic life at dinner parties and over drinks at the Racquet Club. We’re dipping shrimp in cocktail sauce, working Rachel’s best china out on the terrace because it’s mild for early November, you understand, while two thugs—middlemen disguised as caterers, let’s say—are swapping out the real painting with a meticulous fake. He’ll be particularly proud of that last phrase—meticulous fake. He’ll use it with friends and insurance agents and the private investigator, because it sets up the rising action of the story, suggests that a prodigy or mastermind has been patiently plotting against him, just as the Russians have been conspiring all these years to colonize the stratosphere. The phrase will also help disguise the fact that Marty didn’t notice the beautiful forgery for months. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. What does At the Edge of a Wood mean to Sara, Marty, and Ellie? How did your reactions to the painting shift throughout the novel?

2. How does the memory of Kathrijn influence Sara’s art? What are Sara’s perceptions of mortality and the natural world?

3. What does the novel reveal about the distinctions between artists and art historians, and between collectors and dealers? Is art forgery a form of art?

4. What empowers Ellie and Sara despite the chauvinism they face when they launch their respective careers?

5. Would you want the Rent-a-Beats at your party? In their disdain for capitalism, do they do a good job of exposing the plight of someone like Sara?

Suggested by Members

What is so bad about an art forgery if it moves a person and makes him/her think and feel? Does it only become a betrayal if/when that person becomes aware that it is a forgery?
Discuss how Marty and Ellie each wrong the other and how each of them atones for that wrong.
by Susanmoore (see profile) 08/25/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by merrybee (see profile) 03/20/18

 
by robandjenbailey (see profile) 10/07/17

 
by angelk5 (see profile) 09/24/17

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search




FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...