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The Masterpiece


The Masterpiece

THE MASTERPIECE, Fiona Davis’ third work of historical fiction (following THE DOLLHOUSE and THE ADDRESS), is certain to be another beloved bestseller and a popular book club choice. I wholeheartedly loved it.

Growing up in Connecticut, with regular trips into the city, followed by years of my adulthood living in and commuting into Manhattan, I have always loved Grand Central Terminal. Its vastness with the gorgeous ceiling high above, its bustle and elegance never fail to make me happy. Still, even with my love for this landmark, there was so much I hadn’t known before reading this book. And isn’t it always a plus when you can glean bits of history from a novel?

"Full of mystery, controversy and history, THE MASTERPIECE is on my list of favorites for this year and beyond."

THE MASTERPIECE is told from two women’s perspectives in two different timelines that creatively intertwine. The contrast between Grand Central’s grandeur in the 1920s to its years of neglect in the 1970s mirrors the differences in the lives of the two main characters.

Clara arrives in New York City a female illustrator full of hope and bold dreams, while Virginia, newly divorced, finds herself working in Grand Central as a desperate last resort. The terminal in 1974 was in disrepair and replete with crime. Its beauty was buried in soot and filth, and it was in danger of being knocked down and replaced with a skyscraper. Jackie Kennedy Onassis led the charge to save the terminal --- in real life and in the story --- and, as she falls in love with the heart of Grand Central, Virginia finds strength by joining the efforts toward this goal.

With a wonderful feminist thread, I marveled at the way Clara in the 1920s was initially more of a pioneer and champion of women than Virginia in 1974. I found myself considering how society and upbringing influenced each woman. In what ways had our culture advanced --- or not --- in those decades? What informed and shaped women in each era, and those between and since?

The Grand Central School of Art (who knew there had been a gallery and school in Grand Central Terminal?) comes alive with Davis’ retelling. Her characters are real and three-dimensional, and her writing is so graceful. I am looking forward to my next trip into the city --- through the terminal, of course --- to see it with new eyes.

Full of mystery, controversy and history, THE MASTERPIECE is on my list of favorites for this year and beyond.

Reviewed by Leah DeCesare ( on August 7, 2018

The Masterpiece
by Fiona Davis

  • Publication Date: July 9, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 152474297X
  • ISBN-13: 9781524742973