Review and Giveaway:
Pictures From the Past
by Deby Eisenberg
Blurb (From the Author's Website)
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 at its best, 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.
“With a captivating storyline that alternates between characters and time periods, Pictures of the Past grabs the reader from the beginning and sustains a heightened interest and curiosity level throughout. Vividly depicted venues and a tapestry of engaging scenes of dialogue, move the reader easily as one era melds into the next. It approaches the most serious subject of the Holocaust with vibrancy and heart. The language is rich with imagery, extreme pathos and yet lightness, as well. The characterizations are beautifully drawn out, making the reader better understand horrific events of global proportion through identification and empathy with individual experiences.”
When I first read the premise of this book, I was very excited and eager to read the book itself. I like books that interweave past and present with compelling stories - there's just something about the blending of old and new, past and present that is intriguing to me. So I delved into this book with eagerness. And stopped.
Unfortunately for me, I was so thrown by the way the book was laid out that I wasn't able to continue with it, much to my disappointment. It jumped from one person to the next with a frequency that was jarring - each chapter introduced a new set of characters with their own stories and what, at least in the beginning, is a very thin connecting thread. I couldn't get past that to really get into the story. I felt too disconnected from it and was unable to continue with it.
As always, I invite you to draw your own conclusions about this story. In that tradition, I am passing on my copy of this book to one commenter on this post - with a twist. If you enjoy the book and want to do a rebuttal of my review, I will post it here for our readers. So if you want the chance to win this book and be a guest reviewer on this blog when you read it, please leave a comment stating your interest and an email address where I can contact you if you win.