Edith Simon, a truly superior chronicler of earlier centuries and actual historical characters, wrote a less successful contemporary novel some years ago- The House of Strangers (1953) and there is still every reason to believe that she is not at her best when left to her own devices. The Great Forgery sometimes seems like the admirable effort of a precocious child who has attempted to write a novel for grown-ups. Here, some London artists, diligently and self-consciously promiscuous, are represented as carefree and sophisticated types. In particular, a third-rate painter, Gorer, lives (principally) with a half-colored girl who loves him and whom he flagellates. Wisely, she leaves him, to marry a film magnate. Gorer then goes on to devote all his energies to the (re)production of a Holbein, which he ""discovers"" and then sells at auction for 40,000 guineas. The technical details of the forgery are immensely interesting, and do much to improve the last quarter of the book. They also help to retouch one's earlier impression of the book, that of surprising crudity.