Editorial note: I received a copy of Woman on Fire in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr is a thrilling and adventurous tale about a journalist trying to solve an international art scandal.
I loved this novel so much! From the cover to the title to the story—this is the complete package. It’s everything that makes a story shine—adventure, romance, history, art, scandal, betrayal and more. This is a five-star, must-read for sure.
Lisa Barr is becoming one of my favorite authors. I adored her previous novel, The Unbreakables. It’s quite different from this novel as it focused on a woman finding herself in France after experiencing infidelity. It’s so good and I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t yet!
When I interviewed Lisa about The Unbreakables, I asked her what she was working on next and she gave a hint about Woman on Fire:
It’s about a young journalist who is recruited to break into an art world scandal and bring down the thief – the most prominent art dealer in the world, who is living a double life. It’s historical and contemporary, sexy and suspenseful.
How’s that for a premise? In her author’s note, Lisa mentions sending the novel to actress Sharon Stone and she loved it so much that she will produce and also star in the film adaptation. Can’t wait for that!
What’s the Story About
Young journalist Jules Roth gets a job with acclaimed investigative reporter Dan Mansfield and after proving her skills on a tough assignment, Dan recruits her for a top-secret one. He needs her help in locating a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.
Margaux de Laurent is also searching for the painting. She comes from a wealthy family of art collectors and she now works as a gallerist who is used to getting everything she wants. So Jules becomes an unexpected adversary.
But Jules has resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once with Margaux. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.
We read the story from multiple perspectives including Jules, Margaux and Ellis. I really enjoy reading different viewpoints for more of these adventure-like tales. It was especially interesting reading Margaux’s perspective—she’s ruthless and insane but it does try to give some clarity to her motivations.
Jules is great and I so enjoyed the journalist angle. As a former journalist myself, I completely related to her drive—especially at the beginning of one’s career. You’re so eager to prove yourself. I did not go the investigative path—but I still totally related to her passion. There were some elements of journalism that felt maybe a bit of another time—especially the focus on print compared to the current trends of digital and social media but I still quite enjoyed it.
Another aspect of Jules starting out in career is that while very intelligent, she is inexperienced and naive in some aspects, which puts her in precarious situations. Dan was engaging as well, a grizzly editor who is all about the integrity of the story. Yay, journalism!
I learned so much about the stolen art work by the Nazis from this novel. The author really did her research with the subject matter. I knew a little bit going in but it was so much more extensive than I realized.
While this is mainly a contemporary story, it does feature flashbacks to WWII and the story behind the woman of the painting. It’s quite vivid and absolutely tragic about what happens and it’s constant reminder that these horrific behavior must never be forgotten.
The painting is so personal to Ellis and that brings a different dynamic rather than just admiring beautiful art. And likewise Margaux has a bit of a personal connection to the painting as well. I wish the painting was real as I would love to see it in person. So much of the novel did feel like it was based on real people. Again, a very vivid and compelling story.
As you can tell, I love Woman on Fire! It’s thrilling, sexy, fascinating and much more. Highly recommend it! For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.