There is huge love for The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, both here in-house and in the press, and it is one of the most anticipated books of the first half of the year. We thought we’d share some of the wonderful early reviews from fellow authors, booksellers, and the press on both sides of the Atlantic. You can also read our staff love for the book here, and scroll down to read the opening chapters.
Author raves for The Last Painting of Sara de Vos:
As this story of art, beauty, deception and the harshest kinds of loss ranged over continents and centuries, I was completely transfixed by the sense of unfolding revelation. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is, quite simply, one of the best novels I have ever read, and as close to perfect as any book I’m likely to encounter in my reading life. One of those rare books I’ll return to again and again in the coming years.
– Ben Fountain, bestselling author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Gliding gracefully from grungy 1950s Brooklyn to the lucent interiors of Golden Age Holland and the sun-splashed streets of contemporary Sydney, the novel links the lives of two troubled, enigmatic, and hugely talented young women, one of them an artist, the other, her forger. A page-turning book with much to say about the pain and exhilaration of art and life.
– Geraldine Brooks, prize winning author of March, The Year of Wonders and The Secret Chord
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a story told in layers of light. From afar, this novel is so beautiful, the prose so clear and vivid, that it seems effortless; on closer examination, one sees the rich thematic palette Dominic Smith has used. This is a novel of love and longing, of authenticity and ethical shadows, and, most importantly, of art as alchemy, the way that it can turn grief into profound beauty.
– Lauren Groff, bestselling author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia
In The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith moves effortlessly between his seventeenth century artist and those who fall under the spell of her work more than three hundred years later. Smith is a writer of huge gifts and his descriptions of the painting and of those who fall in love with it, (and with each other) are rendered with wondrous intelligence and keen wit. The result is a novel of surprising beauty and piercing suspense. I couldn’t stop turning the pages even while the last thing I wanted was to reach the end.
– Margot Livesey, bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos in the press:
Smith’s latest novel is a rich and detailed story that connects a 17th-century Dutch painting to its 20th-century American owner and the lonely but fervent art student who makes the life-changing decision to forge it. The narrative stretches from a period of grief in de Vos’ life that compelled her to paint At the Edge of the Wood, to 1950s New York to the year 2000 at a museum in Sydney where original and forgery meet.
This is a beautiful, patient, and timeless book, one that builds upon centuries and shows how the smallest choices—like the chosen mix for yellow paint—can be the definitive markings of an entire life.
– Kirkus starred review
The genius of Smith’s book is not just the caper plot but also the interweaving of three alternating timelines and locations to tell a wider, suspenseful story of one painting’s rippling impact on three people over multiple centuries and locations. Smith clearly immersed himself in the world of Dutch masters and the subculture of forgers, too. His descriptions are beautifully precise and reveal the vast research required to write so originally in the well-trodden genre of art mystery. He also captures the fascinating mind-set of the forger.
Smith’s book absorbs you from the start. But its real fuel comes from the anguish of his titular character and, three centuries later, the burdens felt by the inheritor and forger of her most famous work.
– Washington Post
Smith’s novel centers on two women who live hundreds of years apart yet are inextricably linked. Despite misfortune and the rules of her guild (women don’t do landscapes), Sara de Vos completes At the Edge of a Wood, a haunting winter scene. By 1958, wealthy New Yorker Marty de Groot has inherited the painting, but discovers it’s been replaced with a forgery. Marty’s search for the original leads him to Brooklyn and Ellie Shipley, grad student and first-time forger. Years later, Marty and Ellie meet again in Sydney, where Ellie’s academic life is threatened by the prospect of Marty’s original and her fake appearing at the same exhibition. As in Girl with a Pearl Earring, the technical process and ineffable aspects of creating a masterpiece enrich this novel, but Smith had to invent his masterpieces because no works survive by the real-life Sarah van Baalbergen, who was the first woman admitted to the Guild of St. Luke. Smith’s paintings, like his settings, come alive through detail: the Gowanus Expressway, ruins of an old Dutch village, two women from different times and places both able to capture on canvas simultaneous beauty and sadness.
– Publisher’s Weekly
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a deeply researched, beautifully written, intellectually absorbing novel that also has the qualities of a page-turner. It unfolds across three settings: 17th-century Amsterdam, 1950s New York and Sydney in 2000. An Australian art historian, Ellie Shipley, is at the centre of the last two stories, and in a troubling sense is instrumental to the Dutch story too. She is a fabulous character, full of strength and frailty.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos is a tremendous story of art, deception, love, ambition and the place of women in the world, and in history. From the opening pages you know you are in the hands of a writer at the top of his game.
– Stephen Romei, The Australian
In this wonderfully engaging novel, centered on the paintings of fictional seventeenth-century Dutch artist Sara de Vos, Smith immerses the reader in three vibrant time periods. Rich in historical detail, the novel explores the immense challenges faced by women in the arts (past and present), provides a glimpse into the seedy underbelly of the art world across the centuries, and illustrates the transformative power and influence of great art. An outstanding achievement, filled with flawed and fascinating characters.
– Bookist Online starred review
Smith can craft an elegant page-turner that carries its erudition effortlessly on an energetic plot. His narratives may be complex, but that quality only enhances their suspense… Apart from the story’s firm historical grounding, the narrative has a supple omniscience that glides, Möbius-like, among the centuries without a snag. Smith’s 1637 is as convincing a realization as his 1957 or 2000, Amsterdam in its Golden Age no less vivid than millennial Manhattan….’The Last Painting of Sara de Vos may begin as a mystery about a crime, but by the end the reader sees far beneath that surface: All along it was a mystery of the heart.
– New York Times
Written in prose so clear that we absorb its images as if by mind meld, ‘The Last Painting’ is gorgeous storytelling: wry, playful, and utterly alive, with an almost tactile awareness of the emotional contours of the human heart. Vividly detailed, acutely sensitive to stratifications of gender and class, it’s fiction that keeps you up at night — first because you’re barreling through the book, then because you’ve slowed your pace to a crawl, savoring the suspense.
– Boston Globe
Bookseller love for The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
With great skill, Smith weaves three interconnecting stories of Sara de Vos, the young Ellie and her final confrontation with her past in Sydney. It’s a wonderful narrative masterfully told and absolutely compelling.
It will appeal to a wide range of readers, accessible yet complex in the manner of Geraldine Brooks or Anthony Doerr. I predict it will be one of the big books for 2016.
– Mark Rubbo, Readings Books: Books + Publishing 5* review
I read and finished in one sitting The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. I simply couldn’t put it down- loved, loved it! Dominic’s writing is both assured and mesmerising. His sense of time and place are so evocative… It is the kind of novel you can lose yourself in because the worlds are so captivating.
– Sarina Gale, Sun Bookshop
I began reading The Last Painting of Sara de Vos with eager anticipation. As I turned each page, I was transported time and time again to Holland in the seventeenth century, New York in the twentieth century and finally to Sydney at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The narrative moves seamlessly through these centuries weaving a story of art, artists and art lovers. I felt like a voyeur, following the lives of two exceptional women ― Sara de Vos, a struggling seventeenth-century artist in Holland and Ellie, an Australian artist and art curator. Ellie’s one moment of folly is the centrepiece for this vibrantly written novel.
The Last Painting ofSara de Vos defies you to close the book until you have finished the exquisite final chapter. What a talented Australian writer.
– Barbara Horgan, Boffins Books
I have just had the joy of reading an ARC of The Last Painting of Sara De Vos…LOVED it! It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that delves a little deeper…how refreshing. I loved the beautifully wriiten descriptions of the art world in both 1600’s – Netherlands and 1950s New York. I loved the time frames that cross and above all, Ellie’s flawed character…readers are in for a treat when it is released in May.
– Sue Reid, Paper Plus
I was surprised and delighted by this book. I’m not always sure what it is that transcends a book from a good tale to something exceptional for me. It’s more than just the narrative, and a clever plot line. What excites me is the way a book sings to me (I know it sounds pretentious, and believe me, I’m cringing along with you). I’m drawn in by the ebb and flow of words; the rhythm and sensibility; the quirk of the characters. They’re what set books apart, make them appear great in my mind. And this book has it in abundance. I didn’t expect to love it (god knows, I have very little appreciation for paintings). But love it, I did.
– Banafsheh Serov, Your Bookshop
Read an extract
After all that glowing praise, find out what the fuss is with the opening few chapters below: