4 out of 4 stars
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The novel, which took place in 1927 in Chicago, tells the story of Abel Moreau, a forty-year-old poor French man whose source of income is shoe shining. He was so poor that he sustained himself on little but bread and cheese to live through another day. On the other hand, Nathaniel Bosher (commonly called Nate), a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, felt that his canvases were not worthy enough to be hanged on the wall of the art museum.
Since Abel was talented at mirroring the paintings of the impressionist artists and the old masters, Nate proposed to sell some of his sketches in return for profit. The paintings included Claude Monet’s Pond At Montgeron, Matisse’s Dance and Music, Paul Cézanne's Mount Sainte-Victoire, Van Gogh's Young Girl In The Hague, and Toulouse-Lautrec’s Young Routy. The Copyist by Jack Karasch, classified as a historical fiction, lived up to its promise: almost every chapter contained the work of historical artists already mentioned. The sales for Abel's paintings and sketches were going splendidly. However, his work as a copyist did not last long. Nate requested him to be a true artist and create his own work. Having been a copyist for years, will he ever be able to paint a portrait of his own desire?
In the story, what I disliked was Abel's behaviour. He was a forty-year-old man with a mind of a child. For example, "Fearing a slap might be coming, Abel had flinched," and "Slowly, with the look of a boy about to be scolded and punished, Abel withdrew another canvas." I think if the author had at least diminished this character's age, I could have accepted his exaggerated behaviour. I was also curious to discover how Abel could finally see through his duplicitous business partner. However, the book ended with the poor guy still oblivious to Nate's motives. The worst part of it is, Abel could not stop giving gratitude to the latter. Nonetheless, this did not detract from the significance of the plot.
As a lover of romance books, I was thrilled to discover a touch of romance in the story. There was Nate's affair with Franny and Abel's relationship with Suzette. Like some relationships in real life, that of Abel and Suzette was slow-paced in a satisfactory manner. It gradually progressed until they fell madly in love.
Abel's knowledge of art also intrigued me. And to be honest, I knew little to nothing about art until I read this book. He vividly explained how it works and makes him feel. For instance, "Monet’s Impression Sunrise makes me feel as if I’m the man who stands in the rowboat upon the water." Again, The Copyist can be used as a tool to boost the spirits of artists who have given up on art or are on the verge of doing so. It effortlessly guides them on how to paint good portraits. What added more to my interest in the book was the fact that it was easy to read with no visible grammar errors. As a result, I am awarding The Copyist 4 out of 4 stars.
I recommend the book to readers of romance and historical fiction. It will also appeal to lovers of art, especially those who would like to know historical artists behind the greatest oil paintings to have ever existed in the century from 1800 to 1898. To people who envy art but lack the required skills to master a good painting, just remember, "Great art comes with maturity."
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