"An Object of Beauty" is the story of Lacey Yeager, an intriguing and ambitious college graduate who moves to New York City to pursue a career in the art world. The story is narrated by Daniel Franks, a college friend of Lacey's who is simultaneously enamored and annoyed by her. Daniel and Lacey move to New York at the same time and keep in touch through periodic lunches at which Lacey does most of the talking.
Upon moving to New York, Lacey gets a job at Sotheby's auction house. She starts literally at the bottom, working in the basement cataloguing paintings. Lacey's beauty and charm are captivating to those around here, a fact that she is well aware of. Particularly adept at beguiling men, Lacey soon captures the attention of her superiors and is promoted up the ranks at Sotheby's to work in the actual auctions. At Sotheby''s Lacey also meets the art dealer Barton Talley and the collector Patrice Claire. The three of them travel to Russia together to help broker a deal. While in Russia, Lacey and Patrice continue they have begun since meeting, and one night Lacey goes to his hotel room, where Patrice gives her an expensive necklace and the two have sexual relations. Before leaving Russia, Lacey impulsively makes her first expensive art purchase, an event and object she treats as rather monumental.
After returning to New York, Lacey is let go from Sotheby's under suspicious circumstances, but the reader is led to believe that it has something to do with an intrigue she embarks upon with Daniel that she hopes will make her rich. Lacey is easily able to find another job working in Barton Talley's private gallery. Talley sends Lacey to Boston to attend an event, where she is approached by two rather suspicious men who give her an envelope to deliver to Talley. Lacey steams open the envelope to discover what is inside, and becomes suspicious that Talley was somehow involved in the art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a theory that is later disproved by Talley himself.
Lacey's professional success continues, and she is soon able to afford to purchase her own apartment, as well as an increasing art collection. She continues to be romantically involved with Patrice Claire, but he is clearly more invested in the relationship than she is and the affair eventually fizzles. Lacey finally becomes successful enough to leave Barton Talley's and open her own gallery, though she remains on good terms with the dealer. The events and aftermath of September 11th, 2001 interfere with her gallery opening, but she slowly recovers and plans to move to a bigger space. A few years later, the economic collapse ruin a big show she and Talley had planned and invested a great deal of money in. Lacey is eventually forced to close her gallery. The reader eventually discovers that Lacey and Daniel had essentially rigged an auction at Sotheby's so that Lacey could sell a painting she herself had entered, thus solving one of the underlying mysteries of the novel. The novel ends about 10 years after it had began, with Lacey being forced to move back to Atlanta with her parents.
Best part of story, including ending:
The book is an interesting character study of a girl who at the same time draws people in and keeps them just far away enough to remain mysterious.
Best scene in story:
One of the best scenes in the book is when Lacey meets Patrice Claire in the cafeteria at Sotheby's. It is one of the first, and best, examples of how Lacey uses her looks to attract and intrigue people. She catches Patrice's eye early on and is fully aware of his immediate interest. When he approaches her, she subtly flits with him yet maintains complete professionalism, which also captures the attention of one of her superiors, who is having lunch with Patrice. This scene sets the stage for the main romantic relationship of the novel, but is also indicative of Lacey's tendency to use people to further her own means, which she does in this scene to secure an invitation to her first auction as an employee of Sotheby's.
Opinion about the main character:
Lacey is a difficult character to like because she is rather selfish and manipulative. Making money and gaining prestige are her main goals, and she doesn't mind using and sacrificing people in order to achieve them. However, she is at the same time a vulnerable character and the reader can sympathize with her underlying insecurities. She is undeniably lovable with her charm and desire to have fun.