I recently read two books that make such a delightful contrast that I have decided to write my first book review in a very long time.
The selection for my book club* a few months ago was Stealing Mona Lisa. The book is about the theft of the Mona Lisa (duh) and the conspiracy surrounding the events. The Mona Lisa really was stolen in 1911 and the book tells the story of what could have happened - or what did happen, according to some skeptical sources - and is a somewhat wild ride through the Paris art scene, underground art dealing, and forgery. I enjoyed the book, although I was admittedly a little bored and had a very hard time keeping up with the all of the characters as they all had Parisian / Italian names that sounded the same.
Two weeks ago, I downloaded Telling Lies for free on my Kindle. Unfortunately, it's not free anymore but for anyone looking for a good book club book, I highly recommend it. This book is similar to Stealing Mona Lisa in that it deals with the art world - underground, secret, and complex. The story focuses on a lovable (if not unbelievably stupid) woman named Laurel who, while vacationing with her boyfriend in Italy, bumps into a man who is believed to have died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. At the time of his "death," the man was brokering the sale of a priceless masterpiece between a CEO (who did indeed die in 9/11) and a billionaire Japanese man who wants his money. Add in a private detective who gets herself into plenty of trouble, the Isreali Mossad, and all sorts of family drama and you get yourself a good read.
Prior to these books, I was never overly interested in books about the art world. I have a hard time keeping up since I don't know much about art, artists, or museums. However, both of these books peaked my interest. They were similar enough for me to compare them but had nothing in common at the same time - different masterpieces, different time periods, completely different writing styles. But both made me think. What do we really know about the so-called masterpieces - there are so many questions about what is original, who actually created them, etc - both in creative arts and writing (think Shakespeare!)? Add in a bit of espionage, mistaken or changed identity, and a decent writer and you have the stuff fit for a good flight... with all the traveling, that's where I've been doing my reading at least!
Honestly, they'd make good movies. Too bad I'm not doing the film thing anymore.
*Any of you ladies in a book club? If you aren't, you should be. Ours meets once a month and we spend more time eating food and drinking wine than talking about the books. But still. It's one of the best nights of my month - even if my friends think that makes me sound like I'm 95 years old!