I must confess I’d put aside The Artist’s Secret by Alexandra Joel because it’s classified as historical fiction – which isn’t a fave of mine. It was only when re-reading the blurb I realised the ‘historical’ elements here took place in the mid-late 60s, with a few visits into the 70s before moving to the 80s. So not the war stuff I usually avoid, rather… the span of my life. Which – ahem – has barely started. 🙄
And I enjoyed this more than I expected, dipping into the art world, particularly that of the Renaissance period and the world of auction houses and wealthy collectors. Our lead character Wren is complex and likeable who (here) unfortunately comes across some very caustic colleagues (is it an art-world thing I wondered?) but who’s determinedly dug her way out of a challenging childhood to pursue her dreams.The Artist's Secret
by Alexandra Joel
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Historical Fiction
1965: After escaping from anti-war turmoil and the suffocating weight of family expectations, a beautiful young couple embrace a life free of materialism and tradition by a sapphire lake in Italy. But the past does not always let go so easily ...
1987: When talented art historian Wren Summers lands her dream job at the Sydney Art Museum, it seems she can finally leave her wildly unconventional background behind – until a treacherous act threatens everything she has strived for.
The revelation of a monstrous family secret sees Wren head to New York, compelled to find the missing girl who holds the key to this shocking mystery – and to make a fresh start in the glittering realm of international art auctions. As she struggles to fulfil her quest, can she navigate this new, high-stakes world of swirling temptation, romance and deceit, danger and betrayal, while staying true to what she knows is right?
This reminded me of books by Natasha Lester and Kate Morton though perhaps that’s just because it unfolds in several timeframes. But it’s got a saga-like feel to it. Not in a cliched way and although Wren does overcome the odds to experience some success, Joel manages to take readers on the bumpy ride with her. Sharing secrets from her past at well-timed moments intersecting with her life that’s unfolding – initially in Australia and then in the USA.
Joel offers readers some glamour and (as she mentions in her author’s notes) bases elements of this on actual people and events and it adds to the realism – the mentions of famous families, royalty, mobsters and celebrities grounds this in a way so it’s easy to imagine it playing out in real life.
I liked the balance Joel reaches between Wren and her mother’s backstory (and her own family history), along with events of the present – including some skullduggery and a bit of romance – making this a very satisfying read.
The Artist’s Secret by Alexandra Joel was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.