Published by Crown
Buy Now (Affiliate Link) Buy on Amazon
Set in the glamorous 1920s, A Fine Imitation is an intoxicating debut that sweeps readers into a privileged Manhattan socialite’s restless life and the affair with a mysterious painter that upends her world, flashing back to her years at Vassar and the friendship that brought her to the brink of ruin.
Vera Bellington has beauty, pedigree, and a penthouse at The Angelus—the most coveted address on Park Avenue. But behind the sparkling social whirl, Vera is living a life of quiet desperation. Her days are an unbroken loop of empty, champagne-soaked socializing, while her nights are silent and cold, spent waiting alone in her cavernous apartment for a husband who seldom comes home.
Then Emil Hallan arrives at The Angelus to paint a mural above its glittering subterranean pool. The handsome French artist moves into the building, shrouds his work in secrecy, and piques Vera’s curiosity, especially when the painter keeps dodging questions about his past. Is he the man he claims to be? Even as she finds herself increasingly drawn to Hallan’s warmth and passion, Vera can’t supress her suspicions. After all, she has plenty of secrets, too—and some of them involve art forgers like her bold, artistically talented former friend, Bea, who years ago, at Vassar, brought Vera to the brink of catastrophe and social exile.
When the dangerous mysteries of Emil’s past are revealed, Vera faces an impossible choice—whether to cling to her familiar world of privilege and propriety or to risk her future with the enigmatic man who has taken her heart. A Fine Imitation explores what happens when we realize that the life we’ve always led is not the life we want to have.
A couple of weeks ago I was browsing around on Edelweiss in search of a new book to read when I stumbled on A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock. The cover immediately grabbed my attention so I clicked on it. Please, ignore anyone that ever tries to tell you the cover doesn’t matter. While we all know we shouldn’t judge a book by a cover let’s just admit that we all do so it does matter.
In this particular case I love the cover so much that I am tempted to go out and buy it in hardcover just so I can display it on my bookshelves. The author, Amber Brock, lives in the Atlanta area as well so I’m holding out hope she’ll have an author appearance somewhere soon. If she does I plan to go and hopefully have her autograph a copy for me.
One of the things I loved about A Fine Imitation is the double meaning of the title. On one hand it refers to the theme of trying to force ourselves to fit in a predetermined mold set by society. On the other it refers to the art forgery that runs as a parallel storyline. Readers can analyze the dual meanings of the title as they wish but those two themes really stood out to me.
I did find myself increasingly frustrated by the main character, Vera (Longacre) Bellington (but in a very good ‘this character is amazingly written’ kind of way). The book told Vera’s story chapter by chapter through alternating timelines (1913 vs 1923). As I read through her life in 1913 I kept wishing I could just reach through the pages, grab her by the shoulders, and shake some sense in to her. I wanted her to grow a backbone, stand up to her mother, recognize the bad influence of her friend, and for God’s sake, be honest with Cliff! In the 1923 storyline, I felt the same way but for completely different reasons. She frustrated me so much yet I sympathized with her and kept hoping she would make the right decision about her life. Whether she ultimately does or does not is up to the reader but I felt like the ending fit her characterization.
Some readers will see that I felt frustrated by Vera and think it’s a negative toward the book but it isn’t. Any time an author can make me feel toward a character, either good or bad, it is a credit to the author and a sign of a good book. I loved how invested I felt about each decision that she made.
My biggest frustration with A Fine Imitation was the ending surrounding the artist, Emil Hallon. He was such a mysterious character and I had more than a couple of theories about him. I kept trying to piece together little clues that were dropped about his real identity but, in the end, there were not any clues that led to the truth so no matter how much attention I paid there was no chance I could have figured it out.
His story felt like it wrapped up too quickly and I didn’t feel like I was given the time I wanted to really revel in his reveal and soak it all up. I wanted at least a chapter or two that allowed me to process his background and identity. I wanted more of him in the end. There was an epilogue which offered resolution to the story and the structure of the story and the epilogue made sense but I still felt like I wanted more.
Then again, that’s a good thing too, right? A sign of a good story is to leave the audience wanting more, and I definitely wanted more. This book is, so far, one of my favorite reads of the year.
Interested in reading this beautifully written 1920’s historical fiction for yourself? You can get it here.