Alizée Benoit, 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 her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her artistic patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some 70 years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie's auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind recently found works by those now famous abstract expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?
Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges listeners into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of today's New York art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of abstract expressionism.
B. A. Shapiro is a master at telling a gripping story while exploring provocative themes. In Alizée and Danielle, she has created two unforgettable women, artists both, who compel us to ask, What happens when luminous talent collides with inexorable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world? And to what lengths should a person go to thwart evil?
©2015 B.A. Shapiro (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"B. A. Shapiro once again pens the art world into vivid, sensual life. Set during World War II and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism, The Muralist is an intriguing story masterfully imagined about art, war, family, truth, and freedom. If you liked The Art Forger, you're going to love The Muralist!" (Lisa Genova, author of Love, Anthony)
"B. A. Shapiro's The Muralist is an expertly constructed, riveting tale of art, politics, love, and consequences in the Depression Era. I admire so much the way she vividly brings to life this passionate world of the past - it rings with originality and authenticity. What a compelling read!" (Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins)
"I am a great fan of B. A. Shapiro, especially her new novel The Muralist. It is a tantalizing mystery, as well as an involving meditation on the meaning of art over time." (Scott Turow, author of Identical)
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"a gripping tale of emotion"
This tale of art and passion, of intrigue and truth speaks to the human drive to not only survive, but also to thrive. The scary part of the story is its relevance today as many people parrot the same isolationist ideologies which promote xenophobia once again in this country.
"Like the Beginning; Indifferent About the Rest"
For the second time in a week, a book's ending has completely shocked me. The Muralist's ending makes me happy, yet confused all at the same time.
The first thing you have to grow customer to when reading this book, is the way it jumps back and forth between speaker and time. You go from Dani in 2015 to Alizée in the late 1930s - 1940. For the most part, Alizée is the main character/voice. I enjoyed the first 3rd, and I guess the final 5 chapters, but the middle of the book causes mixed-feelings.
It's a bit wordy, especially in the middle. But the all of a sudden in a matter of a couple chapters out of 57, the book's problem is solved and wrapped up with a bow on top. Just strange. I wish we could have enjoyed a more gradual ending that would leave me making more sense of the events.
This is not a book that will have you begging for more or wanting to read it all in one sitting. I have had this around for almost a month trying to get it finished. But it is an easy read. Maybe just not the most gripping, easy read.
However, all-in-all, I enjoyed the book. I would, perhaps, give this a 3.5 / 5 stars if that were an option. But since it's not, I feel like it deserves a 4 over a 3.
Xe Sands is a phenomenal narrator. I think I have become attached to her in some way after listening to both The Art Forger and The Muralist.
"Worst Narrator Ever!"
This is the worst narrator. Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard. Overly emotional with a tremor in it. Talks too fast with a most anmoying reflections. So distracting. Save your money and just buy the book in print.
"great book! love how the past and future exist tog"
Great book. loved how the past and present intertwined. loved seeing actual historical figures each with their own struggles
"1940 Art, War, Politics in an Endless Tangle"
I was drawn to The Muralist, after listening to B. A. Shapiro's, The Art Forger . . . this book is different, but oh, so good . . . another reason that I was interested is that I am familiar with other artists who did murals for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930s and 1940s, my favorite being Walter Inglis Anderson, whose murals are on the inside and outside of several buildings in Ocean Springs, Mississippi . . . the combination of the escalating war in Europe as Hitler invaded the countries surrounding Germany, the nastiness of the politics here at home and the hopelessness of the Jewish people, all combine to make a story that I won't soon forget . . . I learned a lot . . . that one man, Breckinridge Long, assistant secretary of state under FDR singlehandedly prevented 190,000 Jewish refugees from entering the United States . . . and that he, Joe Kennedy, Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were all strong and vocal anti-Semites . . . I was shocked . . . and saddened . . . I am not particularly fond of abstract expressionism, but art comes from the heart . . . and expressing ones self brings healing . . . through art, writing, baking, singing, in a myriad of ways . . . the mental breakdowns that some artists suffer, is a result, I think, of the deep feelings and their inability to deal with the harshness of the world in which they live perhaps . . . and their recovery, in each instance builds strength and joy for the road ahead . . . none of us can even imagine the anguish that Alizée went through as she painted her mural and went through every possible channel to help her family get visas to come from France to America . . . only to be turned down . . . I love how the story went back and forth between 1940 and current day . . . and how Dani, Alizée's great niece searches for the artwork and what happened to all of the family following the war. Excellent story and conclusion. Narrator is not great, but even though it's the same narrator, she did a better job than she did in The Art Forger.
"Needs a much better narrator."
Only if I had nothing better to listen to. The narrator speaks much too fast and much too casual. Swallows her words. This was the worst part of the project.
The ending was fine.
I do not know--just not her.
There were good things about it. Interesting characters, and a good idea for a plot.
It was so hard to follow the story because the readers voice and affect were so distracting. I had to have the volume turned up so high because she swallows her words, probably in an attempt to sound conversational. I should have checked that it was the same narrator from another frustrating book I had listened to previously.
"Interesting and Well Written But..."
I wish that the two main characters were a little more emotionally developed. The fictional story is well woven into the factual history of the 1940's art scene in New York and the horrors of World War ll , but there seems to be an emotional coolness or distance in both Danielle's character and the Aunt that she is researching. I enjoyed the book but I was left wanting more. The story just seemed a little flat.
Superficial view of abstract art and artists, WW II, FDR, workings of government security. Full of clichés (ideas and phrases). And bad reader -- has smart, tough woman speaking in a tremulous, little-girl voice. Same voice for... Eleanor Roosevelt!
OK, maybe my title is odd - why would I get this book if I didn't expect to enjoy it? Well, I did expect to enjoy it, or at least hope to enjoy it, but was nevertheless somewhat skeptical. I enjoyed The Art Forger very much - which is why I decided to try this book, but wasn't totally keen on the narrator. She was OK in The Art Forger, but not amazing. I would still say she was not amazing in this book, but she did do a quite good job with the accents, the different voices, and yeah, the male voices are still not her strongest point, but over all she carries it off well. The story itself is excellent. At first I was skeptical - can Shapiro really do another art story with a mystery? As I listened to the beginning, I first felt that she won't be able to pull off another book that is as good. And doing a novel that involves the Holocaust takes a particularly good author - this is a topic that has been exploited by some, understated by others, and also requires an angle that is different. By focusing on Roosevelt's failure in admitting refugees and his allowing his Assistant Secretary of State to operate as he did, the story relates an aspect of American history that is not so well known, and that is very relevant, even if the situation in war-torn zones today is different from the Nazi agenda and what occupied Europe was like. As it turned out, the story was very well done, the artist characters are certainly colorful, the setting of the WPA project a good one, and I heartily recommend this book.
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