Real Life

Book reviews from NEXT magazine

Our favourite new reads - a memoir, a war story set on NZ's West Coast and an off-beat novel.

A Forger’s Tale

by Shaun Greenhalgh
Allen & Unwin, $33

When contemplating the grand masters of fine art, the mind can't help but skip to Florence, Amsterdam, Paris and Rome... But Bolton? Not so much.

Shaun Greenhalgh grew up in a council house in this nondescript northern English town. A budding artist with vast talent and scant morals, as a boy he made 'Victorian' pot lids, which were all the rage at the time, and sold them to his mates as the real deal. By the time he left high school, he was earning more in a week that most of his friends' dads.

He went on to successfully imitate everything from sketches by Thomas Moran (who actually was born in Bolton) to a bust of US president Thomas Jefferson, which was later bought for a princely sum by another American president, Bill Clinton.

Greenhalgh was finally sprung when someone smelled a rat over a supposedly ancient Egyptian figurine. The artefact, which he'd knocked together in three weeks, had been sold to Bolton Museum for £440,000.

For his crimes, Greenhalgh was sent to jail for four years in 2007 and since he had nothing better to do, he penned a memoir from his cell on how he got away with duping the art world for so long.

In his book, he claims a 15th century painting called La Bella Principessa, officially recognised as a work by Leonardo da Vinci and worth £100 million, is one of his.

It was, he said, based on a bossy checkout girl he once worked with. Do we believe him? The jury's out on that one. But one thing's certain; after reading this book, many will look at the hubris of the art world rather differently!

Through the Lonesome Dark

by Paddy Richardson
Upstart Press, $35

WWI is approaching, but for youngsters Pansy, Clem and Otto life is full of hope. The trio live in Blackball on New Zealand's West Coast, exploring the bush and swimming in the creeks. But life can't stay this way forever… Richardson, known for her crime novels, has made the jump to historical fiction with three lovable characters on the precipice of a brave new world.

Goodbye, Vitamin

by Rachel Khong
Scribner, $35

Ruth is 30 and newly single. But that's the least of her problems. Her father has Alzheimer's. A sweet, funny and charmingly off-beat novel in which some of the poignant moments are the entries in her father's notebook written during her childhood: "You scraped seeds off of bagels and planted them in the flower bed out front. I didn't have the heart to tell you that there's no such thing as a bagel tree."

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