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The Last Painting of Sara De Vos - Dominic Smith

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

Paperback Published: 27th April 2016
ISBN: 9781743439951
Number Of Pages: 384

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Caroline Baum's Review

Any buzz you may have heard about this book is entirely justified. It is, hands down the most polished, intelligent, utterly satisfying literary fiction of the year. It has everything: a compelling plot full of twists and turns, characters who remain intriguing to the very end, multiple locations and a narrative split between different periods, each richly observed in the minutest telling detail.

The themes, scope and ambition of this novel are big: this is a book about art that examines authenticity from many different perspectives and angles. Both on the canvas and in human nature. But while the topic is serious, the tone is often playful and there is much mischief and fun to be had. In the world of seventeenth century Holland painter Sarah de Vos has lost a daughter and embeds her sorrow in her landscapes. In modern day New York and Sydney, collectors, curators and scholars stake their reputations on works that may or may not be any more genuine than they are themselves.

Intelligent and elegantly choreographed, this is one of those novels that makes you feel smarter for reading it and manages to be both entertaining and informative. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


A dazzling and mesmerising story that charts the collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the golden age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth. A literary novel of breathtaking scope, ambition and achievement.

This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can't shake them, even long after the reading's done. In this extraordinary novel, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, US-based Australian writer Dominic Smith brilliantly bridges the historical and the contemporary, tracking a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the Golden Age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated Australian art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.

In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland, the first woman to be so honoured. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain-a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the Manhattan bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she's curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. As the three threads intersect with increasing and exquisite suspense, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerises while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.

About the Author

Dominic Smith is the author of three previously published novels from Atria. His awards include a Dobie Paisano Fellowship, the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, the Gulf Coast Fiction Prize, and a new works grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. His debut novel, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers Book, and received the Turner Prize for First Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters. His second novel, The Beautiful Miscellaneous, was a Booklist Editors' Choice and optioned for film by Southpaw Entertainment. His most recent novel, Bright and Distant Shores, was named by Kirkus as one of the 'Best Books of 2011' and chosen by the ALA for its annual reading list. In Australia, he was shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Fiction. His fiction has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly.

Industry Reviews

'Highly evocative of time and place, this stunning novel explores a triumvirate of fate, choice and consequence, and is worthy of comparison to Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch . . . A masterly, multilayered story that will dazzle readers.' - Library Journal

Interesting read


Wasn't quite what I expected. Was kind of hoping it would get more interesting towards the end.

South Australia


An excellent read


This book was selected by my book club which has been running for over 10 years and was one of the best books we have ever read. Beautifully written, well researched within an interesting historical context.



Very disappointing


After reading several reviews and seeing/hearing the book reviewed on radio and TV I was eager to enjoy reading this novel. Being a female artist myself and actually painting in oils in an old Dutch master classical realist style I thought this would be a real treat. I can't overstate how disappointed I was. I thought it so clumsily written and the personal intimate interactions depicted made me cringe. I was not overly impressed with the descriptions of old master techniques either. The author failed to draw me into the world of any of the characters and I found them all quite "thinly sketched" and unappealing. The language used is self conscious and florid. I'm forcing myself to finish it...something not yet accomplished...I really do not understand why people are raving about this book.



Interesting historically


Being Dutch and interested in both history and art I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Mount Eliza, Vic, Au




happy I ordered it.

Pt lincoln, Au

Intriguing and interesting - what went before?


Well presented print format. Author's frequent switching between characters and times zones could have been better noticed, if different typefaces had been used when story alternated between the past centuries and characters and the current time. It was a long book but interest is well maintained by a fast-moving plot.



A book to treasure and read again.


Great Cover, ideal to handle and good size print.

Kyogle, NSW


A good book


Most enjoyable


Great resd


I had kept this book to read on a long plane journey. It did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the book with the frisson of suspense. I had not read this author before but will look out for her in the future



Stunningly beautiful


Moves seamlessly between centuries. Beautiful insight into characters and locations.

Central Coasr NSW


The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

4.3 15


ISBN: 9781743439951
ISBN-10: 1743439954
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 27th April 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3

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Dominic Smith

About the Author

Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of four novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, which was a New York Times Bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Sold into more than a dozen countries, the novel was chosen as a best book of 2016 by Amazon, Slate, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Kirkus Reviews. In Australia, the novel won the Fiction Indie Book of the Year Award from the Independent Booksellers Association and was named the Literary Fiction Book of the Year as part of the Australian Book Industry Awards. 

Dominic’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, and The Australian. His other novels are: The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre, The Beautiful Miscellaneous, and Bright and Distant Shores. He is a recipient of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, the Gulf Coast Fiction Prize, a new works grant from the Australia Council for the Arts, and a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Dominic serves on the fiction faculty in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, and Rice University.

Visit Dominic Smith's Booktopia Author Page