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Book Review: Pictures of the Past

February 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 165

Fiction/ Historical/ Romance Pictures of the Past Deby Eisenberg 2011 Studio House Literary 378 pages

"Pictures of the Past" is a creative melding of the tragic history of the Holocaust and a lifelong love affair. Author Deby Eisenberg offers the reader a dynamic mix of characters and subplots along with an enlightening history lesson on Jewish culture. The romantic tale that runs through the length of the main plot commands the reader's attention to the story's eventful end.

The book opens in 2004 when Gerta Rosen, a holocaust survivor, discovers a painting by a French artist while visiting the Art Institute of Chicago on her eight-second birthday. Gerta remembers the painting once hung in the home of a friend, Sarah Berger, who was her neighbor in Berlin, Germany in 1937. The painting has been donated by Taylor Woodmere of the Woodmere Family Foundation. Gerta believes the painting was stolen by the Nazi's. She believes she must speak out and reveals her discovery to the media. From this starting point the reader is propelled back in time to the early days of Hitler's reign over Germany.

Taylor Woodmere is the heir to his family's business, Woodmere Industries. The summer after he graduates from Yale University, Taylor's father sends him to Paris to establish relationships with European businesses. Taylor is reluctant to go because his girlfriend is visiting and he has plans to propose. The senior Woodmere insists and Taylor leaves for Europe to attend the conference his father had planned to be held during the time of the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. While in France, Taylor meets his father's European contact, Emanuel Berger, a Jewish business owner from Berlin. He also meets and falls instantly in love with Emanuel's daughter, Sarah. The two become close very quickly. As the couple falls in love, the Nazi threat comes to the Berger's front door.

While Taylor's story is developing, the story of Rachel Gold begins in 1968. Rachel is a college student who becomes enamored with a wealthy young man-a Woodmere-during her summer break. Her brief relationship with Court Woodmere will bind her to Taylor Woodmere in the future.

This is a challenging book from start to finish. The pacing of the story in the opening chapters is somewhat slow and choppy as Eisenberg introduces the book's multi-character cast and their individual stories. But once introduced, the author smoothly guides the reader in and out of the lives of each character as she stitches together the ragged edges of all of the subplots until they fit together in one solid account of a love that continued to burn for over sixty years.

"Pictures of the Past" is a lovely story of romance, history and family. I highly recommend it.

Melissa Brown Levine for Independent Professional Book Reviewers

Melissa Brown Levine is the author of "I Need to Make Promises: A Novella and Stories"

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