The Collector’s Apprentice: A Novel (Hardcover)
What a fun romp! Heiresses, con men, millionaires, and the most famous artists and literati of 1920s Paris converge in one delightful novel. B A Shapiro takes for her subject the real-life Albert Barnes of Philadelphia whose peerless art collection became controversial for its modern sensibilities, and drapes layers of scandal and mystery over the historical scaffolding. Readers will rub shoulders with luminaries such as Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, all while learning the most fascinating tidbits of early 20th century art history. It’s the perfect novel for readers of Tracy Chevalier, Paula McClain, and Kristin Hannah.— Emily
What a fun romp! Heiresses, con men, millionaires, and the most famous artists and literati of 1920s Paris converge in one delightful novel. B A Shapiro takes for her subject the real-life Albert Barnes of Philadelphia whose peerless art collection became controversial for its modern sensibilities, and drapes layers of scandal and mystery over the historical scaffolding. Readers will rub shoulders with luminaries such as Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, all while learning the most fascinating tidbits of early 20th century art history. It’s the perfect novel for readers of Tracy Chevalier, Paula McClain, and Kristin Hannah.— From Emily recommends
November 2018 Indie Next List
“What enormous fun Barbara Shapiro had in constructing this mini-universe of arts, artists, collectors, and grifters. Loosely based on Barnes Foundation founder Albert C. Barnes and his assistant, Shapiro’s fictional pair — Edwin Bradley, the collector, and the lovely but unlucky Paulien Mertens — flit from Europe to Pennsylvania and back in the 1920s. The joy of The Collector’s Apprentice is infectious as the reader is introduced to the salon of Gertrude Stein and becomes a voyeur of a passionate affair involving the great philanderer Henri Matisse. The Roaring Twenties, a whiff of the Talented Mr. Ripley, and a pinch of sex, murder, and mystery are the ingredients of this art thriller. With her bold brush strokes and vivid colors, Shapiro has created a Gauguin of a novel.”
— Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
It’s the summer of 1922, and nineteen-year-old Paulien Mertens finds herself in Paris—broke, disowned, and completely alone. Everyone in Belgium, including her own family, believes she stole millions in a sophisticated con game perpetrated by her then-fiancé, George Everard. To protect herself from the law and the wrath of those who lost everything, she creates a new identity, a Frenchwoman named Vivienne Gregsby, and sets out to recover her father’s art collection, prove her innocence—and exact revenge on George.
When the eccentric and wealthy American art collector Edwin Bradley offers Vivienne the perfect job, she is soon caught up in the Parisian world of post-Impressionists and expatriates—including Gertrude Stein and Henri Matisse, with whom Vivienne becomes romantically entwined. As she travels between Paris and Philadelphia, where Bradley is building an art museum, her life becomes even more complicated: George returns with unclear motives . . . and then Vivienne is arrested for Bradley’s murder.
B. A. Shapiro has made the historical art thriller her own. In The Collector’s Apprentice, she gives us an unforgettable tale about the lengths to which people will go for their obsession, whether it be art, money, love, or vengeance.
About the Author
B. A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as community reads in numerous cities and translated throughout the world. Before becoming a novelist, she taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She and her husband, Dan, divide their time between Boston and Florida.
“Lush, atmospheric . . . Shapiro’s romantic and suspenseful art thriller will delight historical- and crime-fiction fans.”
“B.A. Shapiro is back with a platinum potion of art, love, and scandal, set against the big backdrop of Paris between the wars. If you can put The Collector’s Apprentice down, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am. I read it in one sumptuous sitting. This is a big story, from a big talent.”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprentice she has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.”
—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia
“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page-turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!”
—Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us
“A seamless blend of art history set against a wider historical backdrop.”
—Detroit Jewish News
“In prose lush with post-Impressionist art history, Shapiro's intriguing novel presents a heroine either evil or sympathetic—until the very end.”
“Shapiro packs her novel with intrigues and mysteries . . . Readers will . . . be charmed.”
“B. A. Shapiro delivers another dose of art history, wrapped tightly in a thriller.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Shapiro creates a complex, detailed, and historically-accurate world, and the lack of any straightforwardly heroic characters, along with a superb depiction of the glamorous 1920s Parisian art scene, makes this novel a standout among dark, twisting historical mysteries.”
—San Francisco Book Review