At the start of this intense and richly detailed novel from Jones (Lost Madonna), Lauren O’Farrell, an art detective, interviews 82-year-old Isabella Fletcher about a missing Wassily Kandinsky painting, a masterpiece last seen before WWII. Lauren’s queries open a Pandora’s box of agonizing dilemmas. Did Isabella’s mother, Hanna, whose synesthesia allowed her to “hear” colors, but dead now 60 years, collaborate with the Nazis in looting Jewish-owned art, or was she a hero, saving “degenerate” paintings from the bonfires? Through Hanna’s firm and authoritative voice, we learn of her trajectory from a naïve Bavarian farm girl to an art critic prized by the Nazis, beginning with her impulsive trip to Munich in 1900 and her employment and eventual marriage to Moses Fleischmann, an important art dealer. Hanna eventually catches the attention of Hitler himself. While at times totally implausible (would Hitler have a private lunch with the widow of a prominent Jew?), this story puts a wonderfully imaginative spin on art and history.
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