The early 2000’s was a great time for art history books. Of course there was Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code but you also had Tracey Chevalier writing Girl with a Pearl Earring and several other art historical novels. I couldn’t put those books down and in many ways, they helped to further my passion for art history and complete my undergraduate degree in it. I was immersed in their worlds almost immediately and the luscious of the art history periods they were covering just drove me further into the story.
When I first picked up Linda Moore’s Attribution, I was immediately transported into her story the same way I had been in the early 2000’s with other art history novels. Moore starts off her tale by showcasing the misogyny that can plague art history departments if you allow it to. I remember it well as an undergraduate– male professors always loved to tell you you didn’t have what it took, but you overcome it. Moore’s Catherine Adamson is struggling through a similar departmental struggle with her dissertation chair who never is happy with where she is going and inwardly she fears being let out of her graduate program which is why she doesn’t argue with him when her chair sends her down into the basement of the department to catalog any and all works that she finds.
While there, Catherine stumbles across a forgotten room and a stashed away canvas that by the pigment alone tells her is much more valuable than its current surroundings. At first, Catherine is unsure of what to do– leave it? Share the find with her chauvinistic professor? Find a way to catalog it? Catherine is not given much time to decide as her discovery is followed rather quickly by an unnerving meeting with her chair that leaves her rattled enough to forget the painting. Only then, she’s suddenly outside with the painting and unable to get back because the building has gone into lockdown…something very valuable has been stolen!
At first Catherine thinks of the painting, but how would anyone know it was missing since it was uncovered in a secret room, buried in a long forgotten chest? Circumstances and chance quickly push Catherine into the heart of the mystery as she finds herself on a plane to Madrid instead of one home to Michigan for Christmas.
In the vein of Katherine Neville’s The Eight, Moore quickly engulfs us in the mysteries of the past, of women who struggled long ago and of Catherine’s own journey towards her future. Her plot is rich in art world references and lush prose that intrigues you to keep reading. It is an art history fiction that leaves you thinking as Moore teaches us the importance of truth and honesty, even if it was forgotten to the past.
Attribution by Linda Moore was published in October 2022 by She Writes Press under ISBN 978-1-64742-253-0. This review corresponds to a paper galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.