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In this captivating novel, New York Times 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An iconic New York City landmark connects two women living nearly half a century apart. Fiona Davis’ captivating novel about art and identity revolves around newly divorced Virginia Clay, who starts working at the decrepit Grand Central Terminal of the mid-1970s. One day, she makes an incredible discovery, uncovering a watercolor painted by Clara Darden, a former teacher at the terminal’s long-shuttered…art school? This inspires Virginia to uncover the story behind the artist and her mysterious 1931 disappearance. Davis—whose historical novels about New York’s most impressive buildings are always captivating—moves back and forth through time, revealing the two women’s parallel struggles against misogyny and economic hardship. The Masterpiece is a beautiful tale of perseverance that turns New York’s cavernous train terminal into a living, breathing character in its own right.
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.