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A Nearly Perfect Copy

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Richly drawn and sharply observed, A Nearly Perfect Copy is a smart, funny, and affecting novel of family and forgery that brilliantly conjures the rarified international art world.

Elmira Howells has a loving family and a distinguished career at an elite Manhattan auction house. But after a tragic loss throws her into emotional crisis, she pursues a reckless course of acti
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Nan A. Talese (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of book you have to keep reading because you need to know what happens to these characters. I couldn't put the book down in case the characters made a decision without me. A Nearly Perfect Copy transported me to New York and France while darting into and out of the art and auction worlds, in pursuit of acceptance, reclaimed losses, and fame, if not money.

Elmira: heartbroken over the loss of her son - going through the motions at her job at her extended family's auction house, pa
Travis Fortney
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Here's my review from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here:


Allison Amend's A Nearly Perfect Copy is, as the jacket copy states, "an affecting novel of family and forgery set amid the rarified international art world." Ms. Amend is a Chicago native and a graduate of the Iowa Writer's workshop. A Nearly Perfect Copy is her third book, after a story collection and the 2010 novel Stations West.

If you're like me, when a book's descriptio
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. The author has a lot to say about art, Paris, and the ways in which desperate people can go completely off the rails.
Everyday eBook
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Everyday by: Abigail Pollak
Just as no two snowflakes are purportedly identical, so do the best forgeries, not to mention the most careful clonings, fall just short of perfection. There's always the tiny telling detail, the waver in the signature, the uncertain provenance, the intrusion of an alien gene, the ethical snag, that gives the lie to the copier, no matter how fine the talent or how meticulous the work. Such is the risky business Allison Amend undertakes in her clever new novel, A Nearly Perfect Copy.

Elmira (Elm)
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A nearly perfect copy is the book about art and life that the Da Vinci Code should have been. I learned a lot about art, and the processes of protecting, creating, collecting and selling art that I never realized before and that was only part of the joy.

Allison Amend has written a novel so good that once you begin reading, you forget about everything else. I was particularly fascinated with her character Elm. This woman has lost so much and struggles throughout the pages with her grief, her res
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
(contains spoilers!) I pretty much figured out the plot of the book from the title and the blurb inside the dust jacket. I read about a third of it, then skipped to the end because the author lost me when she had the cause of Ronan's death be from the tsunami in Thailand. I mean, come on-can't you come up with an original cause of death?? and I didn't like that Elm was so focused on her loss of Ronan that she practically ignored her surviving child. And the cloning idea-doesn't any intelligent p ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
I don't know whether it was the art forgery, the loss of a child or the ignorance of the characters that made this such a difficult read. None of the characters were endearing or even likable. It was painful to read. ...more
Diana Holquist
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a nearly perfect book. It's beautifully written and meticulously researched with an original and intriguing hook--the snobby, greedy, rarified art world meets modern medical science. I read it in two days, unable to put it down.

So what little detail, what small discomfort--or as the main character and art expert Elm calls it, intuition--makes A Nearly Perfect Copy in the end feel like a fake?

It's all in the details. Amend is a great writer, but she strives for literary seriousness when
Stephanie W
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love a novel that is immersive, that pulls you into a world and its characters, and A NEARLY PERFECT COPY does just that. While reading the book, I felt as if I were really in it, and when I was away from it, I still felt its echoes, would find myself considering these characters as if they were people I knew.

The novel features two intertwined narratives: there is Elm (short for Elmira), a New York City-based woman who works for her family's prestigious art auction house, and is mourning the d
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Heartbreak and Art Forgery

Although Elm Howells has a respected place in the art world and a career as a director at a distinguished auction house, she hasn't been able to concentrate on her job, or anything else, since the death of her son. She desperately wants to have him back, or replace him. Gabriel Cannois is a talented artist, but he's been unable to achieve the recognition he craves from the Paris art world. When you're ambitious and at the bottom even forgery sounds promising.

The charac
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Though the unique combination of art forgery and cloning had huge potential, the story could have been so much better had the characters actions not been so incredibly selfish and unbelievable.

A First Reads win.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was okay; I might not have finished it if it wasn't for book club. I didn't like either the superficial and self-centered main characters, so it was hard to care about the plot. I couldn't decide for much of the book whether the author intended to have the characters be flat because they were part of the superficial art world or whether the writing was just flat. ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I started this book and was not impressed, but decided to give it the 50-page test. I'm glad I did! It was an amazing book about two people, worlds away; the art world, forgeries, and intrigue. Couldn't put it down. ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed reading about the art world and the techniques involved in creating forgeries, but hated the choices that the main characters made. Have to say the cover of this book made me pick it up and bring it home.
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it
A few questions left unanswered, a few gaps needing to be filled in left me a bit frustrated with the ending as I had thought it was written well until then. Plus, does anyone else wonder if it worked with the dog?? Those of you who've read the book will know what I mean ... ! ...more
Cathy Les
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't like either of the protagonists, Elm and Gabriel. The story just didn't grab me like I was hoping - France, the art world, cloning all mixed together had potential. ...more
Lee Heffner
May 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
The characters, Elm and Gabriel, do not live up to the symbology of their names nor do they grow or take responsibility at any point in the narrative.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction-nope
Only read 2 chapters. Didn't like writing style at all. ...more
Judah Kosterman
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Elmira (Elm) is the great-granddaughter of a New York auction house founder. She has “the eye,” the ability to spot a master’s work and, perhaps more importantly, the maybes and the fakes. She writes a fantastic catalog entry, but the business end of art leaves her bored, and office politics are beyond her. Add to that the clouding of her “eye” and the cooling of her marriage after losing her son in a freak accident the year before.

Gabriel is the great-grandson of a famous Spanish painter, whose
Kathleen Payne
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Someone else's review of her book. I found it an interesting read while on vacation to our beautiful National Parks. I sat on the 3rd floor balcony of the Old Faithful Inn reading by the glow of the fireplace below me.

"Elm Howells has a loving family and a distinguished career at an elite Manhattan art auction house. But after a tragic loss throws her into an emotional crisis, she pursues a reckless course of action that jeopardizes her personal and professional success. Meanwhile, talented art
Alissa Koewler
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books-read
I picked this up randomly at a second hand store and even as I bought I thought “am I ever going to read this? Is it just going to sit on the shelf?”

It sat there for about 5 weeks before i gave it a try. I’m so glad I did. I really enjoyed this book and hope to find more from this author soon.

Big points for originality and for creating two completely different characters whose lives are both well expressed and interesting. I was fascinated by the the way things came together and evolved.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I felt the characters were well developed and it didn’t make any excuses for why they made the decisions they did. I enjoyed the parallels between the two main characters and how their “copy” was similar yet different.
Carl Brookins
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it

This is an amazing, enthralling novel. The characters of the two primary protagonists are so carefully and even lovingly developed, that one can reach the final pages and experience an unsettling sense of loss. The novel is about loss, the loss of friendship and professional respect, of a cherished child, the loss of a treasured inheritance, and the loss of moral integrity.

The story, impeccably told, revolves around two people, both involved in the international art world. Elmira Howells works f
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Oh my, OK, maybe 3.5 stars because this novel is really well-written - my complaint is with the story, which I found only reasonably crafted and somewhat ridiculous.

At first, I though this novel only captured my attention because of its references to incidents in Laney Salisbury's Provenance (which I totally loved), but when I subsequently learned that Ms. Amend is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, I thought back about it and I realized how strong her language use and how well shes is a
*Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Nearly Perfect Copy from Goodreads giveaway.

Elm Howells works at the auction house that bore her great grandfather’s name, as head of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century drawings and prints. Still reeling from the loss of her son in the tsunami, Elm uncovers a way to use her art expertise to help her cope, not understanding the consequences her choices will have on her marriage, her family, and her career. At the same time, in Europe, Gabriel Connois has
Nancy McKibben
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers of literary fiction, interested in the art world
Shelves: reviewed
A Nearly Perfect Copy
By Allison Amend

This story takes place in the art world in two different lives: one, a woman with a coveted “good eye” for art, who works at a Manhattan auction house, and the other a frustrated Spanish painter in Paris with a talent for copying.

I had to think twice about reading this book, as the woman is a mother grieving the loss of her eight-year-old son, swept away by the tsunami when the family was vacationing in Thailand. I have six children and sometimes these books
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was surprised at how into this book I was. On the surface, there wasn't much to appeal to me- art, motherhood, middle-aged ennui- all not really my bag. But the story, despite being somewhat fantastical, always felt rooted in reality. The feelings and motivations of the characters came across as organic. For all the tragedy that pervaded the characters' lives, nothing felt trite or melodramatic. Amend had a very good grasp on what drove the characters, making the cause-and-effect of the story ...more
Lois Murray
Sep 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
The only reason I finished this book is because I agreed to cohost and moderate a community read. That is the last time I will agree to do anything of the sort before I actually read the book in question, having wasted precious hours of my life in this worthless endeavor.

Needless to say I hated this book. The characters are pretentious and phony; there is not a single thing about any of them that bears any relation to real humanity. And it is not because the characters, like Elm, are unlikeable
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this, but feel it descended into the unbelievable as it went on. Slightly weak ending.
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Allison Amend was born in Chicago on a day when the Cubs beat the Mets 2-0. She attended Stanford University and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Her work has received awards from and appeared in One Story, Black Warrior Review, StoryQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner and Other Voices, among other publications. Her debut short stor ...more

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