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The Muralist

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  7,501 Ratings  ·  1,048 Reviews
From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Art Forger comes a thrilling new novel of art, history, love, and politics that traces the life and mysterious disappearance of a brilliant young artist on the eve of World War II.

Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940 amid personal and p
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Algonquin Books
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Popular Answered Questions
Craig Lore No. It never develops into something interesting or unexpected. The weak points multiply and build on each other. The historical insights are not…moreNo. It never develops into something interesting or unexpected. The weak points multiply and build on each other. The historical insights are not worth picking out of the overall mess.
I finished this book because it is for my book club. But if it were not, I would seriously have considered throwing it away--and I very seldom choose not to finish a book. (less)
Janet Rochester In her author's note at the end of the book, Shapiro says Alizée is "completely imagined," and that Krasner, Rothko, et al "created the first true…moreIn her author's note at the end of the book, Shapiro says Alizée is "completely imagined," and that Krasner, Rothko, et al "created the first true American school of art, Abstract Expressionism, although there is no hypothesized missing link in its evolution." (p 116 in my hardback edition)(less)

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Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The trigger points of The Muralist fan out in many directions. It simply speaks to the reader in a multi-faceted manner. Know that these literary rays will fall upon you and will touch your own, personal inner sensibilities. B.A. Shapiro crafts her novel with the colors of expressionistic art, historical fiction, and the historical realities of the time period. You, dear reader, will draw from it as differently as the mind's eye.

I've read Shapiro's, The Art Forger, and this is a step in quite a
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
"Do you know that Jewish children in France are being turned away from swimming pools in the heat of August? Somehow despite the smallness of this, the image haunts me.
How does a mother explain such a thing to a child? That she is not good enough to swim? That someone hates her so much they cannot share the same water?

This story is about abstract expressionist artists and how they have changed our world...and the mystery around what happened to one woman-artist who disappeared during
the eve o
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh, I started this but it seemed trite, a bit formulaic. I had liked Shapiro's previous novel, The Art Forger, but this latest book just wasn't gelling for me. Maybe I'll try again later.
Diane S ☔
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 It is always interesting to see how an author takes historical facts and mixes them with fictional characters to create a story. In this one she takes Krasner, Pollock and Mark Rothko, who in fact did work for the WPA in 1940, and mixes that with a character named Alize whom works alongside them. Alize is Jewish and her family in in France, she knows they are at risk and is trying every means possible to get them out.

Many discussions about art, creativity, the emotional highs and lows of th
The Muralist held my interest and gave me cause to reflect on history, particularly those who were turned away from our shores prior to World War II.

The Hook B.A. Shapiro will be speaking at an author event in Manchester, Vermont this weekend. I’m so happy to be attending and wanted to read her second art themed book attending this author talk.

The Line ”Stood by and said nothing.”

The Sinker Even publishers have varying opinions about books.

Kirkus Reviews 09/01/2015), in part stated ”Eleanor R
Kest Schwartzman
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it
**received as part of an early reviewers program**

I like the idea. I like some of the details. but mostly? mostly it's just sortof uninspired and bland.

The writing is... not great. The two stories, supposedly told from two vastly different points of view, are told in exactly the same way. There's a lot of name dropping, but not much in the way of bothering to try and understand much of any of the characters. There's a whole lot of relying on stereotypes. (all artists are crazy! That's why they
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A historical novel is such a good way to learn about abstract art & WPA & even WWII France. This was a good story . . . main storyline followed Alizee, as a young Jewish artist in NYC around 1940, equally passionate about her art and about rescuing her family from Hitler's Europe. Secondary story, told in first person, was about Dani, her great-niece, an artist working as an art cataloger who tries to piece together the story of Alize's disappearance as a young woman. I confess -- I neve ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I loved The Art Forger by the same author, but found this one simply did not engage me. It's as if the author thought the history was sufficiently dramatic that she didn't have to work at creating a compelling personal story for the characters. Alizee Benoit, a young artist working for the WPA in New York in 1940, is, rightly, obsessed with getting her relatives out of France before they can be mowed down in the horror of the holocaust. Unfortunately, not really knowing her relatives, I could no ...more
Nov 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Just ok. An interesting premise, but unbelievable. The scenes with Krasner, Pollack, Rothko, etc. seemed too contrived.
Aug 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist has occupied a spot on my TBR longer than I care to admit. The subject matter intrigued me and I have always been intrigued by the face on the cover, but the book never demanded my immediate attention. It wasn’t until recently, in an effort to clean up my review backlog, that I turned my eye to the narrative and borrowed an audio edition from my local library.

Before I get too far ahead of myself,
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is a historical fiction novel with fictional characters interacting with real-life persons and events.

I read this author’s other novel entitled The Art Forger a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same love for this book. The main character, Alizee Benoit, is an American artist living and working in New York. She had been hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was a government project to put the unemployed to work during the depression.
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Danielle Abrams, a budding artist, finds some interesting abstract paintings while working at Christie’s auction house. Her job involves authenticating the artwork in preparation for sale. Danielle can’t help feeling that the paintings closely resemble work done by her great aunt, Alizee Benoit, a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Alizee was a colleague of the abstract painters Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Lee Krasner, among others. The fictional chara
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
A mixture of a thriller, a mystery and historical fiction, kept me listening. Moving two characters and between 1940's and 2015, the mystery is solved. Art and WWII are at the center of these women's lives. One theme that struck me was that of 1940s refugees not allowed to enter the US reminded me that we are still facing this is issue in 2016 as we deal with and watch other countries deal with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees being turned away because of their faith or the countries from whi ...more
published here:

When you think every WWII story has been told, an original narrative comes along and you realize there’s a plethora of war stories remaining to be explored and shared. Abstract expressionist art, French refugees and the WPA collide in this riveting historical fiction novel that focuses on the sudden disappearance of young Jewish-American artist Alizée Benoit. Post-depression and pre-war, Alizée works alongside Lee Krasner on murals for gove
Terri Lynn
This book is almost too beautiful to bear. I had previously read the artist's book The Art Forger The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro and loved it so I suspected I would enjoy this one too and I really did. This story is about young Alizee Benoit, an American citizen who was a Jew originally from France who is an artist in New York City working in the late 1930's with other unknowns like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothco (her lover who was married but separated) for Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration) Arts ...more
Elizabeth A
Aug 09, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audio, dnf
I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Xe Sands, and I bailed about 32% in.

This story has so many elements that I usually love. It's a story with two time lines. The earlier one is set in the 1940s, and centers around a young painter in the days of the WPA, and her cadre of painters, who are household names today. The second story line is set in 2015 and centers around woman number one's grand niece. Painters, artists, missing people, authenticating artwork, the plight of Jewish refug
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

I was so thrilled when I heard about this to find an art history novel that isn't about the Impressionists or the Italian Renaissance. So few and far between! I loved that the author took a little-known piece of art history (pre-fame Abstract Expressionists working for the WPA) and developed it into a bigger story about family, mental illness, and the Holocaust. Her depiction of Depression-era New York City felt genuine and vivid; I never had
Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed B.A. Shapiro's novel The Art Forger and I enjoyed this novel as well. I dislike the current trend of telling the story in 2 narratives set many years apart, but I realize many historical novels use this device. This was an interesting story set in 1939-1941 in New York as the United States is still trying to avoid entering World War II. There was a huge refugee crisis building in Europe and the isolationists were fighting hard to keep our borders closed. Shapiro has created Alizee Beno ...more
Charlotte Dickens
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I simply loved this book. Not only did it include an important theme about the horrendous mass murders caused by a leader preying upon hatred or marginalization of a religious group, it portrayed what happens when we stand by and do nothing to counteract it. Although it was published prior to this year's political events, it seems as if now seems even more starkly revealing of important historical events that we should not be forgetting. Marginalization and hatred lead to despicable acts especia ...more
Trisha Smith
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
See my review and others here: http://onceuponatime-bookblog.blogspo...

Alizee Benoit is an American painter from France who is working on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) mural project in New York City when World War II breaks out. Even though she is far away from the war, she worries constantly about the rest of her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. As she tries to get visas for her family to come to the United States, she faces other personal and political obstacles. And t
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars
This is my first book by B.A. Shapiro. I was very excited to read this book as my favorite genre is historical fiction, but also because I love art and the one type of art that I know the least of is abstract expressionism. In this book, Shapiro creates fictional characters intermingling with real people and historical events, e.g., Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko with the birth of abstract expressionism, and Eleanor Roosevelt and Breckinridge Long facing the difficult times of World Wa
Tarina Deaton
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
***ARC received through Netgalley in return for an honest review***

In 1940, Alizee Benoit, an artist employed by the Works Progress Administration is doing everything in her power to obtain visas for her Jewish family trapped in France. The emotional upheavals in her life fuel her artistic creativity, influencing one of the most powerful artistic movements in America. As events coalesce around her, Alizee is overwhelmed by her present and her past leading her to take drastic actions that reverbe
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just as in The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro creates a work of fiction within true historical events. In The Muralist, the event is the United States pre-involvement in World War II. The Work Progress Administration were created in order to stimulate the economy and create work for the people. Part of that WPA was the commission of artwork through the Federal Art Project. Some WPA artists include Pollack, Krasner, Rothko. The artists were commissioned to create art that would hang in federal building ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shapiro mixes fact and fiction to highlight a period in history in "The Muralist." Historical references are: the turning back of Jewish immigrants on the St. Louis; the degree of anti-semitism in the United States in the 1930s and 40s, as evidenced by Joe Kennedy, Charles Lindberg, and Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long; the isolationist policy of the United States championed by the America First Committee; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's reluctance to have the U.S. enter WWII ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
An American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940 amid personal and political turmoil. No one knows what happened to her, not even her close-knit group of friends, which include Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind recently found works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists and becomes obsessed with finding out ...more
An interesting novel-especially for the history and art history--that I liked better than the Art Forger. (At least I found the characters more sympathetic). Short chapters move the story at a brisk pace, the the alternating historical (abstract expressionist Alize Benoit and other WPA artists, her efforts--squelched by an ass't secretary of state--to get her family to US as refugees; her disappearance and her fate) and contemporary (her great niece discovers panels at Christies and searches pro ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Linda by: Booktopia VT 2016
This author has been on my radar for a long time, but I didn't read her until she was booked for Booktopia. This is the second of two books that will make up her Art-trilogy.
Shapiro combines fiction with history to tell a story of art, World War II refugees, and WPA.
I have a few quibbles about small incidents, but the story caught my imagination. The story bounces between a young artists in 2015 who discovers small squares of work that may have been done by her aunt who disappeared in 1940. Se
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an exceedingly interesting and heart-wrenching book. It is centered around a fictional Jewish artist, painting in NYC in early 1940s and emotionally drained by her family's crisis in France. Alizee Benoit is this painter and she is close friends with Bill de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothko, who becomes her lover.

Having just finished The Nightingale, this book provided yet another account of how we failed so many good people by looking away or making excuses.

On the
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've had this author on my list for another book, but this one found me ready first. The story of U.S. Immigration policy (versus practice) is timely for today. Our refusal to admit those attempting to flee Nazi Germany is a sad piece of our history.

The story of the WPA Artist Project was fascinating and led me to find some still existing pieces in my home state of Indiana (see for lists by state.)

WWII novels and non-fiction have been plentiful for the past several years. At one p
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Muralist is a book that takes place in two different time periods. Alizée is a poor, struggling artist working on WPA mural in NYC in 1939. She paints with such artists as Pollack and Rothko from the American Abstract Expressionist era. As her Jewish relatives struggle to get out of France, she becomes more and more distraught. The story begins to frightenly parallel present day events as refugees try to leave Europe and the U.S. closes its borders to them.

The second time period is the prese
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B.A. Shapiro is the award-wining, NYT bestselling author of THE MURALIST and THE ART FORGER, both stories of art, mystery and history with a bit of romance thrown in.

She's also written five suspense novels -- THE SAFE ROOM, BLIND SPOT, SEE NO EVIL, BLAMELESS and SHATTERED ECHOES -- four screenplays and the nonfiction book, THE BIG SQUEEZE.

In her previous career incarnations, she directed researc
More about B.A. Shapiro

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“Americans do not understand that artists are different from ordinary people. That this does not make them insane. This is what makes them artists.” 1 likes
“It’s all the horrors rolled into one. Not just guns and soldiers but families . . .” Alizée’s voice grew hoarse. “The children.” “And the world’s refusal to help. It breaks my heart to think we turned our backs when they asked so little of us.” 1 likes
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