READERS GUIDEThe discussion questions and information in this guide are intended to enhance your reading and discussion of A Nearly Perfect Copy by Allison Amend.
IntroductionRichly drawn and sharply observed, A Nearly Perfect Copy is a smart and affecting novel of family and forgery set amidst the rarefied international art world.
Elm Howells has a loving family and a distinguished career at an elite Manhattan auction house. But after a tragic loss throws her into an emotional crisis, she pursues a reckless course of action that jeopardizes her personal and professional success. Meanwhile, talented artist Gabriel Connois wearies of remaining at the margins of the capricious Parisian art scene, and, desperate for recognition, he embarks on a scheme that threatens his burgeoning reputation. As these narratives converge, with disastrous consequences, A Nearly Perfect Copy boldly challenges our presumptions about originality and authenticity, loss and replacement, and the perilous pursuit of perfection.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. What role does provenance play in the novel, in terms of both art and people? What are Elm and Gabriel’s origins and how do their family legacies affect them? How do wealth and/or birthright contribute to Elm and Gabriel’s feelings of entitlement?
2. Family can be, by turns, a blessing and a burden. How do the characters reflect these attitudes?
3. The novel is told in alternating narratives. How do the two stories mirror each other? How are they different?
4. When Gabriel suggests to his mother that they sell the Febrer painting, his mother likens the painting to “a part of our family,” while Gabriel counters that it’s “a piece of cloth with some decorative oil.” Which sentiment do you agree with? Does art have intrinsic value, or only the value we assign it?
5. On page 134, Klinman says to Gabriel, “Say you borrow twenty euros from someone. Then you pay them back. Does it have to be the same twenty euros? Of course not.” How does this analogy hold up when applied to fine art?
6. How does Gabriel’s sense of alienation affect him? When people are marginalized – whether by choice or circumstance – do you think they’re more likely to behave dishonorably?
7. As a society, we are increasingly concerned with authenticity, and yet advancements in technology and science have made duplication easier than ever. What are some examples of this? When is copying objectionable and when is it beneficial?
8. Deception is a recurring motif in the novel. Which characters commit deceit and which characters are deceived? Did Colin’s admission to Elm change your feelings about him? About her own duplicity?
9. Klinman justifies his dishonesty by sharing the proceeds of his forgeries with victims of the Nazis. Does this make his crime morally defensible?