The Center for the Arts Evergreen Book Chat meets on the third Wednesday of every month from 7-9 pm via ZOOM. CAE’s Book Chat is free to all CAE members. We choose fictional books based in the world of arts and culture and have lively discussions about the world of art. Some past titles have been The Art Forger, Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet, Clara & Mr. Tiffany, Oil & Marble, Dancing for Degas, The Lacuna, Lust for Life, and The Last Painting of Sara DeVos. We encourage you to support local, independently-owned bookstores if you are purchasing selections for CAE’s book chat. We’d love for you to join us. Please consider becoming a CAE member and we’ll add you to our Book Chat list. See below for upcoming dates and titles. Happy Reading!
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 – 7 pm
The Art Thief by Michael Finkel
In this spellbinding portrait of obsession and flawed genius, the best-selling author of The Stranger in the Woods brings us into Breitwieser’s strange world—unlike most thieves, he never stole for money, keeping all his treasures in a single room where he could admire them.
For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than two hundred heists over nearly eight years—in museums and cathedrals all over Europe—Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend who worked as his lookout, stole more than three hundred objects, until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion.
Wednesday, March 13, 2024 – 7 pm
Alive in Shape and Color by Lawrence Block, editor
Even before Lawrence Block could rest on his laurels from In Sunlight or In Shadow, a question arose. What would he do for an encore?
Any number of artists have produced evocative work, paintings that could trigger a literary response. But none came to mind who could equal Hopper in turning out canvas after canvas. If no single artist could take Hopper’s place, how about a full palette of them? Suppose each author was invited to select a painting from the whole panoply of visual art—From the cave drawings at Lascaux to a contemporary abstract canvas on which the paint has barely dried.
And what a dazzling response! Joyce Carol Oates picked Le Beaux Jours by Balthus. Warren Moore chose Salvador Dali’s The Pharmacist of Ampurdam Seeking Absolutely Nothing. Michael Connelly, who sent Harry Bosch to Chicago for a close look at Nighthawks, has a go at The Garden of Earthly Delights by Harry’s namesake Hieronymous Bosch. S. J. Rozan finds a story in Hokusai’s The Great Wave, while Jeffery Deaver’s “A Significant Find” draws its inspiration from—yes—those prehistoric cave drawings at Lascaux. And Kristine Kathryn Rusch moves from painting to sculpture and selects Rodin.
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 – 7 pm
Lady in Ermine — The Story of a Woman Who Painted The Renaissance by Donna DiGiuseppe
Stroke by stroke, color by color, the past comes alive as a young woman in Lombardy, Italy trains to paint with the masters. Will her ambition be too much for them? Or will she secure her place in the world of Renaissance art, despite them? As Sofonisba struggles to make her name, the Spanish empire invades Italy. With Michelangelo as her mentor and her father as her champion, Sofonisba dreams of painting the Spanish King.
In this novel of Royal intrigue and artistic toil, we see the soul of the painter come alive. We watch as Sofonisba struggles to realize her dreams against the backdrop of patriarchal Europe. When Royal tragedy unfolds, we learn the true strength of our heroine. Romance, hardship, bankruptcy, and a legacy of hundreds of paintings that still influence today’s artists. An authentic story of what it was like to be a woman of ambition in the Renaissance. History comes dramatically alive as we journey through the Renaissance with Sofonisba Anguissola.
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 – 7 pm
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
North Carolina, 2018:
Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold―until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.
North Carolina, 1940:
Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.
What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?
Wednesday, June 19, 2024 – 7 pm
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Pan Yuliang was a girl with no dreams. Her parents were taken from her at a young age, then her uncle sold her into prostitution; it was enough for many years just to cope and survive. One day, fate places a kind gentleman in her path, and she begins to discover the city outside the brothel and the world beyond China’s borders. As a larger canvas of life emerges, Pan realizes that she has something of value to say — and a talent through which she can express herself. From Shanghai to Paris, Pan is challenged by the harsh realities in politics, art, and love, and must rely on her own strength to develop her talent. In so doing, she takes a relatively ordinary life and makes it extraordinary.
A work of fiction — but based on the life and work of a real artist — The Painter from Shanghai transports readers to early-20th-century China, a culture marked by oppression. Epstein has proven herself a shining talent in this first novel, tackling such weighty questions as: How does a talented artist blossom, even under repressive conditions? What is art, and what is love? What makes a life well lived? The answers form a mesmerizing portrait of one young woman’s journey to find herself and to nourish her creative talents despite appreciable odds.
Wednesday, July 17, 2024 – 7 pm
The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities. Fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.
For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.
When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain manufacture, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…
Wednesday, August 21, 2024 – 7 pm
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back.
A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.
His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.
Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.
Wednesday, September 18, 2024 – 7 pm
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
An instant bestseller when it was first published, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. A novel of connection, it is the story of one family―mothers and daughters, husbands and lovers―and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. This magical novel―the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while―is the perfect read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time.
At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather’s work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer…and it lies in her heart.
Wednesday, October 23, 2024 – 7 pm
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
Wednesday, November 20, 2024 – 7 pm
The Secret Life of Sunflowers by Marte Molnar
When Hollywood auctioneer Emsley Wilson finds her famous grandmother’s diary while cleaning out her New York brownstone, the pages are full of surprises. The first surprise is, the diary isn’t her grandmother’s. It belongs to Johanna Bonger, Vincent van Gogh’s sister-in-law.
Johanna inherited Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. They were all she had, and they weren’t worth anything. She was a 28 year old widow with a baby in the 1800s, without any means of supporting herself, living in Paris where she barely spoke the language. Yet she managed to introduce Vincent’s legacy to the world.
The inspiration couldn’t come at a better time for Emsley. With her business failing, an unexpected love turning up in her life, and family secrets unraveling, can she find answers in the past?
Wednesday, December 18, 2024 – 7 pm
The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Eight months since losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Carter’s life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists’ models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But with her mother gone, a grieving Lillian is rudderless and desperate—the work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven. So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family—pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.
Nearly fifty years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career—and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home—within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums. But when she—along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua—is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica’s financial woes, but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.