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The Forger by Paul Watkins
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The Forger (2000)

by Paul Watkins

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
David Halifax a young American art student accepts a scholarship that he hadn't applied for from a group that he had never heard of to study painting in Paris in 1939 just as Europe is about to plunge into war. Once in Paris David is taken under the wing of a once famous Russian artist Pankratov and miss enigmatic daughter Vanya. However,he also falls under the malign influence of an unscrupulous art dealer called Fleury who sells some of David's sketches of Old Masters as originals initially without David's knowledge but later with it in a way to fund his extended stay. When war begins David decides to stay in Paris rather than return to his native America only to be coerced by the Resistance into forging some Old Masters when the Germans occupy Paris thus preventing the invaders getting their hands on the originals. These paintings are to be used as bargaining chips with the Nazis in return for originals that the Germans find unappealing. So begins a very dangerous commission.

This book gives a very different viewpoint on life under German occupation in Paris during WWII. David and his cohorts are not soldiers or members of the Resistance shooting and bombing the invaders but talented people who are just trying to find a way to survive the war and prevent the destruction or at least appropriation of great works of art. They are seen as collaborators by the local populace and of course discovery by the Germans will mean instant death or deportation to the concentration camps.

Watkins paints a very evocative depiction of life in Paris under occupation even if in many ways theirs is a pampered existence but it is still a very precarious one. His character descriptions were also very good and I found myself liking more and more about the main protagonists as the book went on in particular the bluff Pankratov. The book runs along at a good pace until its climax which I must admit did seen rather implausible.

This is the first book that I've read by this author and a very enjoyable one it was too. I will certainly be looking out for some of his other works if this is what I can expect. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Aug 28, 2014 |
Read during Summer 2003

I think Paul Watkins has become my new favourite author. David Halifax recieves an anonymous scholarship to study art in Paris. In 1938. He deciedes to stay as war breaks out and becomes involved in a scheme to save great artworks from destruction or confiscation by the invading Germans. It's a great story and told incredibly well. The people and places quickly become very real. In an interesting twist, David is the nephew of Charlie Halifax, the hero of 'In the Blue Light of African Dreams', which got me started on Paul Watkins over a year ago. Apparently many of his books are out of print so I will need to start searching the use book stores.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
The bones of a good story are here, and I like Paul Watkins as an author. But there just didn't seem enough meat on this novel's body to be satisfying.

Watkins spent very little attention to the atmosphere of wartime Paris - the city seemed painted in as a vaguely necessary sketch to give a backdrop to the story. As a young painter who has dreamed of coming to live in Paris for years, David Halifax spends little time appreciating his surroundings. I was hoping for a more convincing sense of place and time, which I didn't get with this book... ( )
2 vote etnobofin | May 9, 2008 |
This book was a really fun read and a surprise. I had not heard of Paul Watkins before reading this book, but it turns out that The Forger could be taken as a sequel to another one of his works since the protagonist of the first is son of the protagonist of the latter. The story begins in 1939 in Paris and it involves all the usual suspects (Nazis, refugees, collaborators etc), this time with an artistic background to it all - painting. Really fun book, and now that I think of it, I think it deserves a second reading... ( )
  carioca | Mar 26, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Watkinsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frezza Pavese, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312276966, Paperback)

"I reached Paris early in the summer of 1939," begins narrator David Halifax. Following in the footsteps of another generation of American expatriates, he has come to Paris for the sake of art (in his case, at the atelier of the temperamental and brilliant Alexander Pankratov). And like those earlier artists, he has arrived at a particularly crucial moment, as France is simultaneously preparing for and ignoring the threat of war. David vows to ignore the vagaries of the quotidian, however, immersing himself in his painting, down to
the minutest detail, so that it would stop being the whole picture and would break down into its individual parts, which were different from what the parts had been in reality. Now they were fragments of a different thing, a thing all by itself. But the ghost of the canvas underneath, the reminder of it, would always bring you back into the world from which the painting had emerged, many incarnations ago.

And of course, he isbrought back to the world: far from being the muse of escape, his talent will be the siren that draws him irrevocably into the harsh world of war. When Pankratov recruits David as part of the movement to replace priceless French-owned paintings with forgeries before the Germans seize them, the young artist quickly becomes absorbed by the very idea of forgery, by the necessity to adopt another identity, to live and breathe and be the master he copies. But when their lives depend on a final forgery--one so audacious that it will strike to the core of Hitler's own artistic obsessions--philosophy gives way to breathless suspense, as the pair journey through Normandy at the moment of the Allied invasion, desperately searching for a treasured Vermeer.

The novel is so strong that its occasional moments of weakness seem an almost personal affront to the reader who has been bewitched by author Paul Watkins's quiet elegance. The narrative skims too quickly over David's life in Paris during the war years, and some of the most crucial facets of the generally well-balanced plot--Pankratov's diatribe to David on the German threat, for example, or David's decision to create that one last canvas--seem pale despite their avowed vigor. These moments feel as if Watkins has failed to prepare his own canvas properly, contenting himself with superficially dramatic strokes rather than carefully layering his foundation. But these flaws are minor detractions in an otherwise splendid work that balances canny portraiture with an unsentimentally evocative landscape. --Kelly Flynn

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An unscrupulous Parisian art dealer tries to pass off some of David Halifax's paintings as Old Masters. When the ruse is uncovered, Halifax is arrested. As the Nazis converge on Paris, he is press-ganged by the Resistance to forge a number of great artworks so that the originals are safe.… (more)

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