Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Art Forgery Meets Genetic Engineering in Ethical Tangle; FICTION - BOOKS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Art Forgery Meets Genetic Engineering in Ethical Tangle; FICTION - BOOKS

Article excerpt

Allison Amend's debut novel, "Stations West," was a fascinating historical portrait of Jews trying to survive in the American Southwest. Her second novel binds together a metaphorical story of human genetic engineering and art forgery. Though the book might sound like science fiction or pulp mystery, Amend's "A Nearly Perfect Copy" is a realistic and very human tale, filled with guilt, ethical dilemma and desperation.

Set mostly in 2007 in Paris and New York, "Perfect Copy," is a five-parter with two major characters: Elm Howells and Gabriel Connois. Elm authenticates 17th- to 19th-century art at an auction house in New York while Gabriel is a struggling painter living in Paris. He's taken the surname of a distant relative, a major Spanish painter. Both Elm and Gabriel are in their early 40s and dissatisfied with their careers and lives. Elm often works with Colette, a busybody and flirt from the auction house's Paris office; she becomes the international linchpin between Elm and Gabriel.

Gabriel is a graduate of a prestigious French school, but he has never emerged as a successful artist. He's taken a menial job at Rosenzweig Galleries "eking out an existence as gallery slave and desperately searching for the time and money to work on his art," but he draws fantastic imitations. Gabriel is single and dates women such as Colette, whose tastes are too expensive for his wallet.

Elm's husband, Colin, is in danger of losing his job as an executive in a pharmaceutical company. …

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