Review: Artifice


by Sharon Cameron

Scholastic Press, 2023

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus

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Artiface is a thrilling novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat with their heart in their throat until the last page of the book. From the first page until the last we are concerned about Isa de Smit’s welfare. Isa is a young woman in Amsterdam, who lived a colorful, exciting life with her parents above their small art gallery until the Nazis invaded. Now, her mother has died, her father seems depressed and uncommunicative and her best friend Truus has joined the secretive resistance. The Nazis have started buying and confiscating all the artwork of the Dutch painters. To get money for herself and her father to stay in their gallery, Isa takes a huge risk, bringing a forged copy of a Rembrandt painting her talented father has painted and selling it to the Nazis.

Isa finds out that Truus is working to smuggle Jewish children out of Amsterdam and needs more money to save the children from the Nazi killers. Isa runs into a young man who used to visit the art gallery during their childhood, who now wears a Nazi uniform. He asks her for help to desert the army. Isa decides to trust him and use him to help her negotiate one more art sale to Hitler himself. Sometimes in both artwork and people it is not so easy to spot a fake.

Bringing into the novel real historical characters, Cameron builds the artiface, a subtle or crafty trick. With twists and turns, the reader is unsure what is real or who to trust and who is untrustworthy until the very end. This novel is based on the true stories of Han Van Meegeren, a master art forger who sold fakes to Hermann Goering, and Johann van Hulst who is credited with saving 600 Jewish children from death in Amsterdam. Cameron creates a realistic plot that shows how the citizens of Amsterdam helped the Jewish citizens and tried to fight against the Nazis invading their country.

This novel is told from the point of view of the non-Jewish citizens of Amsterdam. There are clear references to the atrocities that were happening to the Jews and what could happen to those who tried to help the Jewish people, the righteous Gentiles. This is a story of love, strength, and the ability to look for the good in people under adverse circumstances. There is no religious content in this novel. The Jewish content is integral to the story line and makes it clear to all readers how dangerous living conditions were at that time for those with Jewish heritage.

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Reviewer Merle Eisman Carrus resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. Merle is the National President of the Brandeis National Committee. She leads books discussion groups and author interviews. Merle reads banned books. She blogs her book reviews at