Secondary Story

March Book of the Month

The Muralist

by Barbara A. Shapiro

Shapiro brings together art, war, refuges, and a first lady. She tumbles them into an unforgettable novel. The Abstract Expressionist artists are Americans Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, the biggest names in modern art museums. The war is World War II and the refuges are those refused entry into the United States both before and after the war started, and why.  The first lady is Eleanor Roosevelt who we learn kept American artists working though a program very similar to the WPA, and adding the art to America’s public buildings. This was the largest procurement of art put on public display in history. Hitler collected stolen art but kept it for himself.

Our author then mixes in a fictional Jewish family, two members who are artists, seventy years apart. The first being Mark Rothko’s lover and inspiration, Alizee Benoit. The second is her niece, failed artist Danielle Benoit. Alizee disappears and seventy years later Danielle attempts to find out what happened to find her. From the book cover, “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?” Much to think about.


Reviewed by Peggy K. Potter
Director Hutchinson Memorial Library
228 N. High St.
Randolph, WI 53956

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