Pictures of the Past by Deby Eisenberg


Published: August 2011
Publisher: Studio House Literary
Source: Review copy for Pump up Your Book Blog Tour
Find the author: Goodreads || Website 
Buy: Amazon || B&N

~ The Blurb ~
From the back cover

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 world 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. 

~ My Thoughts ~

When I turned to the first page of Pictures of the Past I had no idea that I would be starting the most engaging, heart-felt and character driven World War II era historical fiction that I have ever read. The first few chapters jumped around in time quite a bit and each of the characters were introduced quickly but the fast pace literally threw the reader into the novel and it was impossible to not become completely absorbed in the story from the very beginning. I was concerned at first that I might not be able to keep all of these characters straight and that the jumping in time (sometimes 70 years) would get confusing but I can assure you these quick transitions only fuelled my interest and kept me glued to this novel.

I will spare you a synopsis because the blurb really says it all and this is a book that you just have to read and discover yourself. I don’t know how I could possibly summarize this book without giving away details about how the characters are connected, and discovering these connections is the best part! I will tell you that I was shocked to learn that this is Deby Eisenberg’s first novel because it reads like the work of a polished professional. The writing is beautiful crafted to convey deep emotions, whether they are intended to be of longing, happiness, fear or suspense. I felt a real connection to the characters, Sarah specifically, and found myself quickly invested in her story. I will definitely be reading Pictures of the Past again as I'm sure there is much more treasure to be found within the pages of this magnificently written book. I truly believe that this is a novel to be savored and poured over time and time again.

Sarah was not the only captivating character and equally deserving of attention is Taylor Woodmere. He was so full of passion, conviction and strength in his youth and while not touched as directly, or tragically, by the Holocaust as Sarah was it forever changed the course of his life. My heart went out to this character, and on an emotional level his story was almost as tragic as Sarah’s.

Pictures of the Past is a gripping and unforgettable story and the combination of intense emotion, powerful drama and utterly unforgettable characters makes it not only a beautifully written historical novel but a timeless piece of fiction. It is a story of romance, unrequited and forbidden love, and the ties that bind us together even after decades of separation. I highly…. highly recommend this book to fans of WWII era historical fiction, and everlasting love stories.

What are your favourite types of historical fiction? How do you feel about multiple points of view and novels that jump around in time? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)

I received a review copy of Pictures of the Past from Pump Up Your Book (thank you!!!) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

2 Responses to “Pictures of the Past by Deby Eisenberg”

  • Andrea says:

    I love historical fiction but I find I've only stayed with the ones I know (Philippa Gregory and Ken Follet) I really need to find more and this seems just like the right kind of book for me. Awesome review, thanks so much for bringing this book to my attention! 

    • Bonnie says:

      Thank *you* Andrea! I have been having a lot of fun the past few months branching out to lesser known authors. Some books were so-so but others, like this one, have been fantastic! I hope you do read it, I’d love it if you shared your thoughts with me when you do! :)

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