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The Masterpiece

A Novel
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)
Non-member price: $39.01
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Publisher's Summary

In her latest captivating novel, nationally best-selling author Fiona Davis takes listeners into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, 50 years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

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 25-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 art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly 50 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. 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 hidden under the dust, 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.

©2018 Fiona Davis (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Fiona Davis in The Masterpiece continues a winning formula that showcases the stories behind New York City landmarks...a hard-to-resist and a timely reminder that for far too long the work done by women has been dismissed and disrespected.” (USA Today)

"Fiona Davis achieves a world in which fictional characters and real life seamlessly meld.... The Masterpiece is a beautifully crafted, meticulously researched story." (New York Journal of Books)

“Davis 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.” (Library Journal, starred review) 

What members say

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‘The Masterpiece’ by Fiona Davis

When I found this is a historical fiction about Grand Central School of Art founded by John Singer Sargent in the 20s, I immediately decided to download from Audible. The reader is my favourite Cassandra Campbell. That helps.

The author adapted a well-trodden dual timeline format. And I think it works very well here.

The story itself is fascinating, very clever mixture of the fictional and the real.
Although some subplots are too contrived, I enjoyed the book. As usual, it’s read brilliantly.

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  • Debra Jo
  • 10-09-2018

If you want a novel that has everything...

This novel left me with a thirst for knowledge. I have never really been curious about Grand Central or Art in all honesty, but I was left so intrigued by what I've learned here. This story was concluded perfectly but I desire more information. I don't give 5 star ratings often, but when I do, its because a novel has stuck with me or opened my mind to learn more. This novel has done both.
I am not a huge Historical Fiction fan; however, this is the second book by Fiona Davis that I have read and fell in love with. I love reading stories set in two different time frames, with several different characters meeting in some way at the end. The reveals are amazing. I was blindsided near the end.

This novel has everything, History, Mystery, Romance, Heartbreak, and Culture.

I would recommend this book to everyone. There is something for literally everyone to fall in love with.

I would also like to point out that this novel has several strong women protagonists and expresses the women's rights and movements without becoming overpowering.

Fiona Davis is one of those authors that I will read anything she writes without even knowing anything about the book. She is just that amazing.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Effie Kammenou
  • 13-12-2018

Fascinating and compelling

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is a historical novel set in New York City from the 1920s to the 1970s and encompasses separate, but connected stories of two women fighting through unfairness and injustice in order to find their power and sense of pride.

After a mastectomy and a divorce that followed, Virginia Clay finds employment at the information booth in Grand Central Terminal. While exploring, she made an unexpected discovery in an abandoned area within the landmark—a hidden painting. Virginia was desperate to learn the history of the painting and the artist behind it. Equally compelling her was her need to fight for Grand Central Terminal to be saved and retain its landmark status.
Clara Darden was an artist who worked at the Grand Central School of Art, a prominent commercial illustrator and a painter unrecognized for her talent due to her gender. Her life was riddled with lost loves, prejudice and fleeting moments of bliss.
Virginia, in the 1970s, hit many of the same roadblocks Clara came up against in the 1920s and 30s, demonstrating how not much had changed in the way of gender inequality. Both women were at the mercy of the men in their lives, but both persevered in spite of them.
Fiona Davis created a fictionalized story around real-life events and locations. Well researched and beautifully written, the book held my interest from start to finish.
Cassandra Campbell narrated The Masterpiece with her usual skill for storytelling. I’ve listened to many books by this narrator and I knew I would enjoy this one as well. She’s a great talent and has a soothing voice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary Smiroldo
  • 29-10-2018

Boring!

Finally stopped listening with 3 long, boring hours to go. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it just droned on and on. Cassandra Campbell is a highly rated narrator, but I have never understood why. She has a sing- song voice that I find unbearable irritating. Her voice combined with a terribly boring story....it’s unbelievable that I lasted so long.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Genie
  • 19-08-2018

Disappointing

This was not as good as her first book about the Dakota House, which included more historical information. Instead, this one focused on too much romance, heartbreak, and drama. The plot was also rather implausible.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathryn Prescott
  • 20-02-2019

Very tough listen

I just could not get into this book and I never did. I found the characters quite lackluster, the story uninteresting and the finish line to be a dud. I can finish a book in less than a week on audible as I drive quite a bit. I think this one took me about 3 to 4. The narration was good. The overall story was not to my taste.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-02-2019

Ending a bit strange

Ending not as strong as The Address., a bit too far fetched especially given the time span of the characters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Teresa
  • 10-02-2019

a favorite historical fiction writer

Fiona Davis has done it again! She has brought me to New York City's Grand Central Terminal and made me feel 1920's life in the Terminal as well as 1970's. I love how she connects two time periods with the surroundings of the city. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction writers!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Libby
  • 08-02-2019

drivel

this book had such potential and did not deliver at all. two dimensional characters and an irritating narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-01-2019

review

loved the book, story and characters .....reader was very good.would def recommend, however i think audible/amazon is ridiculously expensive

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • stacey g lyman
  • 16-04-2019

Third Place

I have now listened to three of Fiona Davis’s books. Listeneg to The Dakota first made me want to hear more! The Doll House was a close second and this book last place. I had a difficult time with the contrived accent of the narrator. The diction made the narrator sound snobbish and as if she were using her own fake accent, whereas the other books made the characters incredibly relatable and the narrator was more of a storyteller.
Still a good “ historical/fiction” read!

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  • S. Jones
  • 07-09-2018

Another lovely historical NY tale from Fiona Davis

I’m a fan of Fiona Davis’ historical novels and seem to choose to listen to them on audio. Always enjoy the dual timescales of her books and the strong female characters who are usually facing up to their problems’. Really enjoyed learning about the art world and the history of Grand Central station. Plenty of twists in the tale along the way too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful