Fiona Davis expertly weaves the stories of Clara and Virginia together, making one wonder how the two will ultimately connect. Within these two timeframes, Davis vividly captures the glittering heyday of Grand Central Terminal in the 1920s and its decay by the 1970s. Davis also brings to light the building’s history, especially the fight to save it from demolition. Ultimately, the theme of Davis’ book is powerful: two strong, independent women, each trying to change their circumstances, all within the backdrop of one of New York City’s most beautiful buildings.
Clara and Virginia are fierce, vulnerable and unwavering in their determination to right wrongs ... This zippy read can be a little too pat with its dialogue and resolutions, but is a hard-to-resist and a timely reminder that for far too long the work done by women has been dismissed and disrespected.
Davis...has written another paean to a New York City landmark. Historical fiction fans will love the compelling dual narrators and time periods perfectly captured in this novel based on the history of one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world.
Fiona Davis has established herself as a master of historical settings and fictional recollections of those worlds ... And with The Masterpiece, Davis shows yet again that New York’s historic structures are apt settings for intrigue ... Davis expertly switches between the lives of Clara and Virginia, weaving their struggles for independence and security with Grand Central’s history. Readers will be drawn into the lives of these remarkable women—and, alongside Virginia, into the mystery of what happened to Clara.
As she did with the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse (2016) and the Dakota in The Address (2017), Davis uses an iconic NYC building as the backdrop for the story of two women whose lives intersect across time ... Davis is a maximalist when it comes to plot elements, and not everything convinces, but the use she makes of New York history is always interesting.
With a wonderful feminist thread, I marveled at the way Clara in the 1920s was initially more of a pioneer and champion of women than Virginia in 1974. I found myself considering how society and upbringing influenced each woman. In what ways had our culture advanced—or not—in those decades? What informed and shaped women in each era, and those between and since? ... Full of mystery, controversy and history, The Masterpiece is on my list of favorites for this year and beyond.
At times, the art-history lesson towers over the story, resulting in less tension and lower stakes than in Davis’ earlier novels. Still, with richly drawn characters living in two storied eras, there is much to be enchanted by.