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Book Review: 'A Nearly Perfect Copy'


Allison Amend is out with her third book. It's a novel called "A Nearly Perfect Copy." It features richly detailed characters, including an art dealer gone bad, and it's set in both Paris and New York. Our review Alan Cheuse found it all quite delectable.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Elmira, known as Elm Howells, works her expertise mainly about European drawings and paintings at a family art auction house in Manhattan. A great success at what she does, she's got what Allison Amend describes for us as the eye - a way of seeing through a painting or drawing, of gathering in an instant its myriad qualities, good or bad. So, Elm Howells knows how to tell a real work of art from a forgery. But all her expertise can't shield her from the pain of losing her young son in a natural disaster. In fact, it becomes her reason for going against everything she believes in as a professional and descending into the world of forgeries and copies of real art. Amend draws sharp characters: a couple in New York who hope to clone their dear-departed dog, a near-middle-age Spanish painter living in self-imposed exile in Paris, his scheming girlfriend, an unscrupulous art dealer. She creates a nicely evolving plot with New York and Paris as the settings. And what unfolds is acutely appealing: various characters struggling to overcome defeat and failure in their private and public lives against a backdrop filled with the particulars of middle-class family life and the art world here and abroad. I got caught up in their problems, their struggles. I loved the lore about the art business. Really, I found this to be a terrifically entertaining novel that never lost its hold on the hearts of its characters or mine. When I turn my eye on this, I see something quite real.

CORNISH: Reviewer Alan Cheuse with his take on Allison Amend's new novel, "A Nearly Perfect Copy."


CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.
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