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Book Review

Book: The Chrysalis
Author: Heather Terrell
Published: May, 2007
Publisher: Ballantine Books

available at

Synopsis: Mara Coyne is an ambitious young lawyer on the brink of making partner at a major New York law firm. A chance to prove herself comes in the form of a new case in which she represents Beazley’s, a prestigious art auction house. Just as an old Dutch masterpiece, The Chrysalis, is about to be auctioned off by Beazley’s, an elderly lady claims the painting, maintaining that it was stolen by the Nazi xxx from her parents, Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Mara’s job is to prove that Beazley’s is the rightful owner of the painting. Through careful research, Mara develops a clever strategy for winning the case but an accidental discovery leads to a moral dilemma that is further complicated by her feelings for Beazley’s xxx attorney who happens to be an old college flame. Mara must weight her desire to do what’s right against her desire to achieve the professional success she’s been driving for.

Editor’s Review: Written by a lawyer and about a lawyer, The Chrysalis examines not only the legal but the moral issues surrounding a work of art that was confiscated by the Nazis during wartime. Flashbacks to fifteenth century Haarlem in The Netherlands and WW II Amsterdam provide a more complete understanding of the painting and its history from its creation to the present day. As the true history of the painting unfolds, Mara’s friends and business associates are put to the test with unexpected results. The strength of the book lies not in suspense or intrigue but in Mara’s moralistic struggle. I don’t think The Chrysalis is really long enough to become especially engrossing, especially since the reader must follow three sets of characters in three different time periods. But in Mara, Terrell does create a believable and admirable character with whom readers can identify. And as a bonus, the reader will learn how the provenance of a work of art is determined.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
   You can see Diana's own artwork by visiting her site at