Clare Clark’s sixth book is another slice of well researched and compellingly told historical fiction ... Her novel still reads like an outlandish tale ... Clark takes a while to get going. Her initial chapters feel less like a steady buildup and more like an overlong preamble. But once the plot takes shape and the seemingly disparate parts slot into place, the novel roars to life. Clark brilliantly evokes both the decadence of Weimar Berlin and the impending Nazi menace. Her characters’ singular struggles prove riveting. Her scattered artistic references are effective ... Above all, though, it is the heightened intrigue that keeps us invested.
... terrific ... 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 ... Julius lectures Matthias: 'To write about art you must speak as art speaks, passionately and directly to the soul.' Might Clark be speaking to herself here? Until an overly complex last section, she manages the trick well enough, rendering the atmospheric setting precisely and the psychology of her characters with deftness, strength and subtlety. She artfully balances her twin subjects: a painter’s meteoric life and the fiery trail of controversy left behind by a shooting star.
... as compelling as it is expansive ... Perhaps inevitably, a plot so labyrinthine and loaded with conspiracy theories veers occasionally towards melodrama; yet there was no shortage of esteemed experts prepared to convince themselves and others that the Wacker daubs (none of which has survived) were the genuine article. Clark persuasively suggests that the paintings – masterpieces one moment, worthless the next – were simply a barometer of the inflationary chaos that beset Germany between the wars ... The novel’s historical authority is not entirely flawless ... But at the heart of the book lies a quest for authenticity that has a bearing on our own times ... In an age that has apparently lost faith in experts and verifiable sources of information, Clark’s fictionalisation of the Wacker affair stands as a salutary tale for the post-truth era.