A new book for people who liked Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith is inspired by a real-life 17th century female Dutch painter and alternates with the fictional story of a woman who was an art student in the 1950s. The character of Sara de Vos is based on the real Sarah van Baalbergen who was the first woman to be admitted to the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke in the Netherlands in 1631. Sara's and her husband Barent's only child died at the age of 8 years, and in her grief Sara painted a haunting winter landscape even though the Guild's rules forbade women from painting landscapes. In 1957 Australian Ellie Shipley is a student in New York writing her thesis on female painters of the Dutch Golden Age and doing art restoration on the side. She is approached by an unscrupulous art dealer to paint a forgery of the only surviving de Vos painting, the winter landscape At the Edge of the Woods, which has been in the family of wealthy Manhattan resident Marty de Groot. Marty realizes that his painting has been stolen and replaced by a fake and determines to find the forger. He finds Ellie and meets her under an assumed name. The story then switches to the year 2000 when Ellie is a professor in Sydney and is mounting on exhibition on female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. She is horror-struck when she finds out that both the original painting of At the Edge of the Woods and the fake are on their way for the exhibition. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is an enjoyable book with fascinating details about art and life in the 1600s and with sympathetic characters and a feeling of suspense that ends on a sweet note.

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