Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I've meant to read this book since hearing of its release even before I had any idea what it was about. I'm a big Steve Martin fan when it comes to his writing (Shopgirl is still listed in my top favs), so I knew this would be another good experience.

An Object of Beauty tells the story of Lacey Yeager, an up-and-coming member of the art selling world boom of the late 1990s. The story is told through the eyes of a friend who recounts what happened to her. Lacey went to New York after college and secures a job at Sotheby's cataloging the paintings in their basements, eventually working her way up to assessing customer's pieces of art for sale. For a while she seems to climb the ranks quickly, when suddenly she is fired with no explanation to others she works with. She goes on to work for a private gallery, building a loyal clientele of collectors who trust her opinion. The only strange twist is that Lacey inexplicably has a much more disposable income, paying for expensive dinners with friends, investing in clothes to look successful, and even purchasing valuable works of art for her own collection. A scandal is hinted at with her release from Sotheby's, but only one former colleague seems to know anything about it and her record with others is never tarnished. When the art market collapses along with other non-commodity businesses in 2001, Lacey's gallery closes soon after, sending her home to Atlanta and removing her from the art scene. Before she leaves, she is approached by the FBI about her reason for being fired from Sotheby's all those years before. I don't want to divulge more info because it's treated like a sort of twist in the book, but it is certainly an interesting story. It's strange to say that there really isn't a huge climax or even massive consequences for what went on, but in a Karma-like way, she does eventually get dropped down a peg and has to live with what she did.

This was a quick read, and was very well written. Even though I didn't much care for Lacey as a person, I did enjoy hearing the story as just that ... a story. It felt fairly realistic, which is odd considering the story involves such an "upper class" industry, so I have to give Martin serious credit for that. In spite of my issues with Lacey as a person, I still enjoyed the book, and for me that is a notable success. I recommend this to anyone who just wants to escape their own life for a short time. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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