Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Review: Artifice by Sharon Cameron

This was a book I had to read, of course. As I have read several books by Sharon and have enjoyed all of them. So I knew I would like this one too. And I did. Very much. Giving this a four star, as I didn't fully love it. But I liked this story a whole bunch. The writing was stunning, of course. The story was all kinds of heartbreaking.

But it was also a pretty slow book. About the German war, taking place in the Netherlands, in 1943. It could have been graphic and horrible and so sad. But it was not. It was more slow and soft and a bit hopeful. So many heartbreaking moments and some details about the war that were simply the worst. But yes. Silent, sort of.

Which was not at all a bad thing. I liked that this book was not in the middle of the war. That it was not a brutal and graphic story about being beaten and hurt and tortured. It was more about all that was happening on the side of the war. With art being stolen and sold to the Germans. It is about a girl trying her very best to keep herself and her father alive during the war. What happens when she does something she can not take back, that changes everything. I very much liked this story. It is told from the point of view of Isa de Smit. She was raised in an art gallery in Amsterdam with her parents. Her mom died right before the war. Her father has spent the past few years inside at all times, just painting and mostly going crazy. Not helping. With Isa being forced to take care of them, keeping them fed and safe from the Nazis.

I am not going to talk too much about the plot of this book. At least I do not think so. It is so complicated and so much happens. Yet, slow. And yet. It takes place in about just a week. So it happens fast as well. And it was heavy and slow to read. Which I liked. As this book was full of details. I liked getting to know more about this time period. I liked that Sharon made much of it very accurate, with many of the people being real too. I love that it seems like she did so much research for this story. Adored these characters.

First we get to know Isa a bit. And I very much adored this girl. I loved how she took care of her dad, even when he did not deserve it at all. I loved how she tried to keep their art gallery, though it had been closed for years and did not actually have any art left anymore. I loved how she would do anything to keep them safe. And how she was fully brave and loving and kind, most of the time. Fierce and rude too. But also a little bit stupid at times, ack. She made some wrong choices a few times, that hurt, but felt so real as well.

We get to know her best friend, Truus, though she has not been close to her since the war began. They do get closer again now, and I did like that. Somewhat. It was not easy to like Truus. But she was doing something so brave and good and I loved that. And Truus's boyfriend, Willem. I was a little unsure of him at times. But I liked him too. Then there were all the different art people, like the rich older guy who lived in a mansion alone. I did not like him one bit. But I really liked reading about his part in the story even so.

And then there was Michel. The Nazi soldier. The boy who wanted Isa to hide him, so he could desert his post. And oh. This boy. They get close once they meet. Isa hates him and what he is. But she starts liking him too, as she knew him when she was a child. Well, somewhat. He had been in the gallery many times with his father before. And it did not seem like he had actually killed someone. He just helped them steal art and get it moved. Which was enough, I suppose. But I liked him anyway. He was sweet yet a little bad.

This story is about Isa selling a fake painting to the Nazis. About Michel knowing it and trying, badly, to blackmail her for help. About her being dragged into what Truus was doing, trying to save Jewish babies. Getting her own to save, little baby Hildy. Whom was the sweetest little thing. I adored how they all cared for her. Sigh. And this whole story about saving the babies was the best. And yet also the worst, with how many did not get saved. And how those that were saved were taken from their family. It was so very sad.

But yes. The story in this book was exciting. It was about Isa having to sell another forgery. Figuring out how to get it to look real. How to get enough money to save the art gallery and more babies. And how not to get caught. It was not at all easy. But it was a little bit of fun too, and I liked that. I loved reading about Isa and Michel together. Sigh. I do wish there had been a little bit more romance, though. Aw. Those final pages were my favorite. But I wanted more, so I was a little bit disappointed too. Still. I fully adored them.

I shall not say more about this book. It was about the war, yet a more easy part of it, if that makes sense. It was still awful and still sad, but it was hopeful too. And I liked that. Oh. I just remembered what Truus was mostly at fault for and now I am angry with her again. That plot twist near the end of the book really hurt. Hmph. But anyway. Artifice was an exciting and stunning story. It was real and heartbreaking. It was interesting and full of great history to learn. A four star, but I liked it very much. You should all read it too.

Goodreads - Blackwells - Amazon US - Amazon UK

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