(from Goodreads) Pictures of the Past is a compelling saga sweeping through Chicago, Paris and Berlin, reliving events from pre-World War II Europe, but beginning in contemporary times. An Impressionist painting, hanging for decades in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the charismatic philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is challenged by an elderly woman as a Nazi theft. Taylor’s gripping and passionate story takes us back to 1937. Sent to Paris on family business, he reluctantly leaves his girlfriend Emily, a spoiled debutante from Newport, Rhode Island. But once in Europe, he immediately falls in love, first with an Henri Lebasque painting, and then with the enchanting Sarah Berger of Berlin. After Taylor returns home, the Berger family becomes trapped in the Nazi web, and any attempts for the new lovers to be reunited are thwarted. Interwoven with this narrative is the story of Rachel Gold, a beautiful and bright Chicago girl caught up in the times of the late 1960’s. Pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend Court Woodmere, Taylor’s son, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor. Years later, as the controversy surrounding the provenance of the painting becomes public, Rachel’s grown son is disturbed by his inexplicable familiarity with the work of art. And it is only Taylor Woodmere who can unravel the complicated puzzle of their lives. With a heart-grabbing ending, Pictures of the Past is historical fiction, giving a personalized window to the powerful events and intriguing venues of the eras. From a world torn by the horrors of war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.
I was going to post my review for Duty of the Dead by Charles Todd but realized I was suppose to be part of the Blog Tour so I’ll have to post that review another day.
This is one of those novels that sneak up on me and surprise me at just how much I enjoyed it. It started out as a nice novel, though the subject matter-of course- is not nice, but the storytelling seemed,well, nice. Then it started getting more and more layered. You know always wonder if there can be a new fresh take on that Holocaust. But this one did. I was fascinated by the idea of the provenances of painting stolen from Jews during the Holocaust and still finding their way home in present day.
Then there’s the love stories that weave their way through the novel. All the characters were warm and real and heartbreaking. The multiple story lines were weaved together so well it made this such a pleasure to read. This is one of those novels where I find myself saying “ahhh” as I figure out the connections between characters and story lines. I couldn’t wait to find where the story was going and what would happen next.
I don’t want to give anything away because this is one of those books you want to have spread out before you, discovering what’s going to happen and why. This is Deby Eisenberg’s debut novel and I look forward to what she does next. I’m sure it will be well worth the read.
I received and read Pictures of the Past as part of Pump Up Your Books blog tour. If you’re interested head on over and connect to other reviews.