"Artifice" | Reviewed by Nicole Frankenberg
“Artifice,” by Sharon Cameron, follows the life of Isaatje “Isa” De Smit in the midst of Nazi-invaded Amsterdam. The only person Isa has left is her father, who isn’t always fully present. She also has her family’s art gallery, which has become a Resistance hub, and the chosen shelter of a runaway Nazi and his two friends, Truus and WIllem, both of whom joined the Dutch Resistance.
In desperation to pay off the taxes of the Gallery De Smit, Isa sells a forged Rembrandt, painted by her father, to Hitler himself. It was whilst she was walking to the auction that she discovers something that will change everything for her: Truus was part of a circle of the Resistance that was sneaking Jewish babies out of Amsterdam. However, in order to be able to continue to save the children, Truus needs money, and a lot of it.
Isa believes she knows how to get the money: by selling a forged Vermeer. The clock begins to tick as Isa tries to learn the art of forgery before the children are deported or she is arrested as a collaborator.
Isa’s story is based on the real-life experiences of Han van Meegeren, a master with the art of forgery who sold his fakes to Hermann Goering, and Johan van Hulst. Meegeren is credited with having smuggled 600 Jewish children out of Amsterdam and the clutches of the Nazis.
“Artifice” is the kind of book that keeps you on your toes—never able to guess what will happen next. The way Cameron describes emotions throughout the novel makes them seem so real that you can almost feel them yourself. The characters are lovable and unpredictable. One moment, you’ll find yourself questioning who they put their trust in and questioning every one of their actions; next you find you couldn’t have pictured them doing anything different than they did.
Cameron’s story reveals that when the world seems to be painted in the darkest of colors, if you look closely, you can always find splashes of brightness—of hope and love—on the canvas of the world.