This engaging, emotionally rich novel by Clark (The Great Stink; Savage Lands) is inspired by a famous historical forgery case involving the artwork of the tortured, brilliant Vincent van Gogh. Set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis in the 1920s and early 1930s, the plot involves a number of disputed van Gogh paintings and three people whose lives become entwined because of them: a famous art critic and van Gogh expert, a young woman who is drawn to the artist's work, and a Jewish attorney who represents one of the principals in the case. A sense of uncertainty presides—about the art pieces, certainly, but also about the key relationships that develop among the characters, some of which turn out to be exploitative and predatory. Ultimately, the novel becomes a meditation on the nature of what's "real"—in art and in life. Authenticity is something much harder to judge, Clark suggests, than we may like to think. VERDICT A beautifully crafted exploration about living in a very complex world; recommended for fans of literary fiction, historical novels, and art history. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Clark (We That Are Left) dives into the lives of three Germans involved in a Van Gogh forgery scandal in this enjoyable tale. Each of the characters is involved in aiding and abetting Matthias Rachmann, a charming but inscrutable art dealer whose impressive collection of van Gogh works has given him given him financial security and prestige amid the hyperinflation and turmoil of Weimar-era Berlin. As art experts and reporters begin to question the veracity of Rachmann’s paintings, the motives of his friends and acquaintances also come under scrutiny. One of Rachmann’s most powerful supporters is Julius, an aging art expert whose knack for identifying forgeries gives him unparalleled sway in the Berlin art scene. Julius’s young charge, Emmeline, is a graduate of the Berlin Academy of Art—her considerable artistic talent and personal volatility lend themselves well to Rachmann’s schemes. And Frank, Rachmann’s Jewish lawyer, ties the scheme together as his professional and personal life are increasingly threatened by the rise of Nazism. Based on a real-life forgery scandal, the novel is infused with Clark’s signature attention to historical detail. While van Gogh’s paintings and the question of artistic veracity provide a nice narrative framework, the core of the story is the bonds and delusions that form between Julius, Emmeline, and Frank. Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs. (July)
In Clare Clark’s terrific new novel, In the Full Light of the Sun, the story of van Gogh’s posthumous rise to fame bursts from history like a spurt of the artist’s beloved chrome yellow from a tube of paint.” —New York Times Book Review
“In the Full Light of the Sun is clearly the product of smart, painstaking research, yet it reads like lived experience...The result is a novel as intricate as filigree in its structure and as powerful as a storm surge in its headlong sweep...Clark has outdone herself.” —Seattle Times
“Clark brilliantly evokes both the decadence of Weimar Berlin and the impending Nazi menace. Her characters’ singular struggles prove riveting...Above all, though, it is the heightened intrigue that keeps us invested.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune“As compelling as it is expansive . . . In an age that has apparently lost faith in experts and verifiable sources of information, Clark’s fictionalization of the Wacker affair stands as a salutary tale for the post-truth era.”—Guardian (UK) “ A gripping and ultimately moving story about art, artifice and authenticity.”—Mail on Sunday (UK) “With great skill and sympathy, Clark evokes a febrile society in which politics, love and art offer no certainties, and the ground always threatens to open beneath her characters’ feet.”—Sunday Times (UK) "Clark's mastery of historic and artistic details merges with skillful plotting and compelling characters in this accomplished novel. A suspenseful, atmospheric portrait of Berlin during Hitler's rise."—Kirkus Reviews "Infused with Clark’s signature attention to historical detail...Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."—Publishers Weekly
In Berlin between the world wars, a trove of rediscovered works by Vincent van Gogh propels a story of passion and betrayal in the art world.
Clark (We That Are Left, 2015, etc.) situates this historical novel in a decade marked by economic, political, and cultural turmoil in Germany. The story is told in three sections. The first, set in 1923, focuses on Julius Köhler-Schultz, author of an acclaimed biography of van Gogh and "Germany's pre-eminent art critic, composed, cultured and authoritative, a man garlanded with the privileges of lifelong success." That life has been upended by the departure of his wife, Luisa, a hedonistic young woman half his age. She has taken with her their baby son and Julius' most treasured painting, a van Gogh self-portrait. He misses the painting more. Julius meets Emmeline Eberhardt, an even more rebellious, even younger woman, an artist who will be first his protégé and then something more problematic. She is the main character in the book's second section, set in 1927, as she explores her sexuality in Berlin's demimonde. The lives of Julius and Emmeline become intertwined with that of a charming and mysterious young man. Matthias Rachmann, an aspiring art dealer, might be a true lover of art driven by aesthetic passion—or he might be an exceptionally intelligent grifter working a very long con. The book's third section, set in 1933, consists of diary entries by Frank Berszacki, who was Rachmann's attorney after he was charged with art forgery. Berszacki is Jewish, and he adds yet another layer to Matthias' story while describing his own struggles with the rising tide of Nazism in Berlin. Clark's mastery of historic and artistic details merges with skillful plotting and compelling characters in this accomplished novel.
A suspenseful, atmospheric portrait of Berlin during Hitler's rise.