Artifice

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4.3 (2)
 
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Artifice
Age Range
12+
Release Date
November 07, 2023
ISBN
978-1338813951
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A dramatic story of duplicity and resistance, betrayal and loyalty, set against the backdrop of World War II, by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Light in Hidden Places.
Isa de Smit was raised in the vibrant, glittering world of her parents’ small art gallery in Amsterdam, a hub of beauty, creativity, and expression, until the Nazi occupation wiped the color from her city’s palette. The “degenerate” art of the Gallery de Smit is confiscated, the artists in hiding or deported, her best friend, Truus, fled to join the shadowy Dutch resistance. And masterpiece by masterpiece, the Nazis are buying and stealing her country’s heritage, feeding the Third Reich’s ravenous appetite for culture and art.

So when the unpaid taxes threaten her beloved but empty gallery, Isa decides to make the Nazis pay. She sells them a fake―a Rembrandt copy drawn by her talented father―a sale that sets Isa perilously close to the second most hated class of people in Amsterdam: the collaborators. Isa sells her beautiful forgery to none other than Hitler himself, and on the way to the auction, discovers that Truus is part of a resistance ring to smuggle Jewish babies out of Amsterdam.

But Truus cannot save more children without money. A lot of money. And Isa thinks she knows how to get it. One more forgery, a copy of an exquisite Vermeer, and the Nazis will pay for the rescue of the very children they are trying annihilate. To make the sale, though, Isa will need to learn the art of a master forger, before the children can be deported, and before she can be outed as a collaborator. And she finds an unlikely source to help her do it: the young Nazi soldier, a blackmailer and thief of Dutch art, who now says he wants to desert the German army.

Yet, worth is not always seen from the surface, and a fake can be difficult to spot. Both in art, and in people. Based on the true stories of Han Van Meegeren, a master art forger who sold fakes to Hermann Goering, and Johann van Hulst, credited with saving 600 Jewish children from death in Amsterdam, Sharon Cameron weaves a gorgeously evocative thriller, simmering with twists, that looks for the forgotten color of beauty, even in an ugly world.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Art Amidst Atrocity
(Updated: January 10, 2024)
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Isa's parents ran an art gallery in Amsterdam, but now that the Nazis have taken over and her mother has died, it is all she can do to take care of her father. When a tax bill comes due on the building, she sells a forged piece of art to the Nazis. One of the officers seems suspicious, and she later sees him looking at the fake address she provided. He leaves a note, and eventually contacts her. His name is Michel, and he knew her parents before, but was forced into the Nazi army by his father. He wants out, but needs Isa's help. He thinks she has ties to some resistance members, and she does, but not very useful ones. Her friend Truus is trying to smuggle Jewish babies out of danger, and Willem is helping her, but that itself is such a fraught undertaking that they don't have much to offer. Things get even more complicated after Truus kills a Nazi officer and Isa ends up taking care of a baby. Michel explains himself to Willem, and everyone tries to stay safe in the art gallery. Isa is determined to get more money for Truus' cause by selling more forgeries, and ends up contacting Van Meegeren, an artist who has been selling things to the Nazis. Isa manages to infiltrate his studio and find out a lot about his forgery technique, but she also gets caught up in a dinner party that he is having with some of the Nazi officials. She manages to get some helpful information, and when she returns to the gallery, asks for Michel's help in selling a forgery. Things go very wrong, because there are multiple copies of the same works. Her father has been struggling with a drug addiction, and there is very little time before the German deadline for the Netherlands to be "free from Jews". Will Is be able to juggle all of the people depending on her to provided safety and resources, or will she herself get caught and killed? (Slight spoiler-- there's a rather nice, happyish ending.)

Good Points
This was apparently based on the real story of Van Meegeren, as well as an effort to save Jewish babies, so that was interesting. I haven't read a lot of books involving the problems surrounding art during World War II (except for Fitzgerald's Under the Egg), but I know that there was a lot going on. There are also not as many books set in Amsterdam, with the exception of Winter's Bullet and Hidden Like Anne Frank, so that was interesting. I am especially fond of books that talk about the Resistance, and Truus' plan to save Jewish babies was a good one. That it was funded by bilking Nazis made it that much better. There are a good amount of details about what it was like to go out into the streets of town, some about the scarcity of food, and a lot about the problems with knowing whom to trust.

This is a great choice for readers who want to know about more facets of the Holocaust and who have enjoyed books like Nielsen's Resistance, Hesse's Girl in the Blue Coat, Zail's Playing for the Commandant, and Sharenow's The Berlin Boxing Club.
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For the chiildren, for life
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What I liked:
Historical fiction is an opportunity to take a piece of our nightmarish history and shine a line on it through a different lens than just the war itself. This time, Sharon Cameron is looking at the battle and sharing information through the art of forging and the desperate lives of babies and children whom Hiliter wanted to destroy. In Artifice, you learn a lot about what goes into the paintings and how hard it is to recreate them to make them look real enough. Artifice has everything: art forgery, the Dutch resistance, hidden paintings, double-crossing, messy family dynamics, and self-doubt.
Final Verdict:
Worth is not always seen on the surface, and forgery can be challenging to spot. A talented artist takes his talents and forges paintings and can save 600 Jewish children from certain death. Little did the Germans know the money they spent was used to defy them directly. Based on real people. Artifice shows a story of defiance, bravery, and resilience—an exciting, eye-opening look at our history.
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