Tuesday, 3 May 2016

ARC Review: A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Book Format: eARC from First to Read
Rating: 5 stars
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.
I think it's worth mentioning that I am greatly thankful for First to Read/ Penguin Random House for giving me the chance to read this book early.

 I can't recall what pulled me to this book, exactly, when I read the description. I think, maybe, being able to pick up a debut author's book was definitely part of the equation. Another was also the book being set in the 1920s and reading from a privileged young woman's perspective. I wasn't quite sure what to expect... but, let me tell you, I was definitely blown away from this book.

We get to see the world from Vera's view - not only as a married woman but as a young woman trying to find herself in college. The story switches back and forth after each chapter which, I know, might sound a bit bothersome to some. This is one of the few instances where it just works and it actually helps support and tie the story nicely with fancy lace.

Things are not as they seem for Vera. Yes, I know, very cliche for a rich young woman, but hear me out. She finds herself home alone most of the time because her husband, Arthur, finds himself too busy with work constantly. She still also seems to be 'under control', as I would explain it, by her mother in order to keep a proper face in the public view. Anything that could potentially ruin the Longacre's name Vera's mother was sure to immediately wash out before the fire burns too uncontrollably. In result, Vera finds herself... suffocated with 'what I must do's rather than doing 'what she wants to do'.

Vera only allows herself to do what is necessary. She does what her mother desires - such as finding legit paintings with her art degree - and does so with rarely any complaints. One day, though, she discovers an artist who goes by Emil Hallan -  a newly discovered artist who has recently graduated from college. His art, so unique in their colors, structure, and flow, that she decided that this was the artist she wanted to paint in the house. Her mother approves - if only to keep the Longacre's name in high standards. Just wait until Mr. Hallan's name become big...

But Vera is more concerned about the growing interest that quickly grabs her heart.

In college, Vera is a little more open to the opportunities she could receive but still remains hesitant. It was probably a surprise that she was even allowed to live on campus with other students. Even so, she was still monitored very closely by her own mother. No. She was still restrained under her mother's control... but only from a distance. Still, it felt just as painful. But at least she managed to find a new friend - Bea, a unique artist of wonderful talent... and refuses to follow the rules, and who has no qualms taking Vera with her.

It's so easy to just read the synopsis and assume that it's a typical book about a woman who finds herself dreading what has become of her life but does nothing to remedy it. This is one of those books where there is certainly more than what could ever be explained properly.

Subtle deceit, secrets, and lies grow at every corner. Like a water to a plant: it takes, absorbs, and grows and grows and grows until it becomes too big to manage on its own.

It's so easy to believe everything - but, eventually, everyone's secrets will come to light. Even the ones that Vera refuse to believe that are happening right under her nose - and in her heart.

Everything builds up at a steady pace. Nothing feels like its out of place and the amount of information given feels like the best amount you can get from a book like this. With a potential budding romance, and all the tension gathering from all the other characters, it's so easy to let things slide by fast without giving things a chance to grow. It felt so believable to me that, at a certain point, I didn't want to stop reading. Vera felt so real to me, so tangible, that I just had to know what was going to happen.

If you're going to read any new debut author's book this year, at the very least consider this book. It's a definite must read for me.

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