Pictures of the Past

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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 ...
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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780615483122
  • Publisher: Studio House Literary
  • Publication date: 8/28/2011
  • Pages: 378
  • Sales rank: 238,144
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

As the leader of an established Chicago area Book Club, Deby Eisenberg challenged herself to write a novel that her avid readers could not put down and would love to discuss. With a Masters Degree from the University of Chicago, she is a former English teacher and journalist. Inspired by so many wonderful books and formidable authors, and drawing on her love of literary research, art, architecture, Jewish history, and travel in the United States and Europe, she tried to envision a multi-generational love story that would inform as well as entertain, that would broaden the mind and open the heart.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Captured My Imagination~Mesmerizing Novel!

    When I first decided I'd like to review "Pictures of the Past" I had some hesitation. I've read an assortment of books covering the holocaust over the last 40 some years, and felt I may have met my capacity with them. The stories often left me with a heaviness of heart. I'd lived many years in Germany, even went to college in Munich, Germany, at the University of Maryland's extension campus, so it's a country that's very dear to my heart, with a people I'd come to love. It's been difficult to separate the Nazi's from the kind people of Germany I'd come to know. I'm glad I did take a chance on this particular book, however, because it beautifully balances the good and the ugly. It tells a story that gives the safe and lovely side of a life in Berlin, and then shows the rising of an extremist group that overtakes the country like locust. I loved this book.

    From the earliest words, Deby Eisenberg captured my heart. I could hear the inflection of the grandmother's voice. I could feel her indignation and her ire rising, and I could nearly sense the touches of her grand and great grandchildren as they gathered around to comfort her. Eisenberg is a masterful writer. She makes her story not only ring with truth, but resound with the vision of a cast of characters that you can well image actually existed.

    The love story interwoven within the historical mysteries of the book are engrossing. I was so happy to read the details of transatlantic voyages, the beautiful cities both European and American of the pre-WW !! era, and the very interesting comments about Nazi art thefts. The mystery that's presented of old lovers, the painting's travels, and a family whose lives were changed by the Nazi terror is mesmerizing.

    It goes without saying that I highly recommend "Pictures of the Past" to everyone. It's a great book on this era from several perspectives. Beautifully written, it's a timeless love story that's anchored by a painting that's etched in the minds of the lovers.

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    Very good story

    I was fascinated by the story and the times it takes places in. Very poignant times, the 1930's before World War II is begun by the Nazi regime. I loved the idea of the piece of artwork being the thing that brings all of these people together.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    Great Book!

    Because my book club is reading Sarah’s Key for our Book of The Month, I wasn’t really looking forward to another WWII/Holocaust story. However, I loved this book!! Deby Eisenberg’s writing style reminds me of Jodi Picoult’s. Each chapter tells a story from a different characters perspective, in a different time period, with there being quite a few characters to keep up with. However, it is all leading up to the merging of these characters and how they are all connected.

    In Sarah’s Key, I didn’t feel that I had closure with the main character and I was left with more questions than resolution. However, in Pictures of the Past, I felt that Deby brings the characters full circle without it being too unrealistic or too perfect. I loved the descriptiveness of each scene and the beauty brought out during a time of war. For example, Sarah takes Taylor to all her favorite shops and sees past the markings of hatred the Nazi’s wrote across Jewish shops/businesses. It was in the simple things mentioned that made me fall in love with the characters. I didn’t feel a sense of rushing through different character’s chapters, like I did with Sarah’s Key. I loved reading about each perspective and life story and towards the end of the book, it all came together beautifully.

    This is a beautiful story, very well written, and deserves to be recognized as a great Historical literary book. I highly suggest this book and encourage you to add this to your must read book list!

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    Historical Fiction with a Romantic Twist

    “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

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  • Posted January 22, 2012

    Highly recommended - couldn't put it down!

    I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and particularly stories that involve WWII, and so when I heard about Pictures of the Past I was very eager to read it. And I must say, it did not disappoint. I was drawn in instantly and could not put it down, until by the end I found myself at almost 4 am unable to sleep until I finished the book. Someone HAS to make this into a movie!

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    Pacific Book Review

    Reviewed by: Suzanne Gattis, Pacific Book Review

    It was a chance introduction in Paris in 1937, one moment in time that changed the lives of not only Taylor Woodworth and Sarah Berger, but of their posterity forever. Pictures of the Past chronicles a love story that withstood the test of time, across continents, over decades, and even through the horrors of war.

    Woven throughout the story, a focal point of the story is the Henri Lebasque painting that enchanted Taylor upon first sight, the first thing he fell in love with in Paris (the latter being Sarah). Bought originally as a gift for his girlfriend and future wife, Emily, this painting became a treasured gift to his one true love, Sarah. Of all the items that Sarah¿s family lost to the Nazi¿s, she is able to keep the painting with her along most of her journey out of Nazi Germany. While Sarah ends up in Israel, eventually the painting makes its way back to Taylor and later to the Art Institute of Chicago, where an elderly acquaintance recognizes the picture from her own past. A controversy of how the picture came into Taylor¿s possession begins the book and sparks the delve into the past.

    The picture has touched the lives of other characters in the novel as well. As we follow the doomed romance of Sarah and Taylor, the reader is also introduced to Rachel Gold, who became a single mother to Taylor¿s grandson after being abandoned by his son. Rachel¿s son has vague memories in the past of this same picture hanging in a home he once visited, unknown to him at the beginning of the story that was hung in his grandfather¿s home.

    This historical saga is a multi-generational love story, complete with a much hoped for reunion in the end. The reader becomes entangled in the emotions and twists of the plot, which makes the characters seem very real. The story also presents a somber picture of what life was like for the Jews in the World War II era, a lesson that we all need to learn. The brief introduction of the book in contemporary times provides a unique view to the story, allowing the reader to go back in time with each character and relive each moment with them.

    As a first time author, Deby Eisenberg tells a memorable story. The only distraction I found while reading was an overuse of complex sentences and commas. Sometimes a simple thought would have been a welcome break. Despite that, I could not put the book down, wanting to know how their lives all turned out.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    A wonderful read that will keep you enthralled to the end.

    This novel is one of the most intriguing and beautiful books that I have ever read. It contains so much inspiration and love - also heartbreak and hate - that a review is almost impossible to write in order to do the author justice. It is so full of stories of people rich and poor who live through the heartwrenching horror of war and separation of families and friends. The story is an epic tale that takes the reader from Chicago to Paris to Berlin and back to New York covering the years 1937 to 2005. The story begins in the year 2004 when Gerta Rosen a survivor of the Second World War sees a painting hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago that, she states belonged to her neighbors in Berlin, the Berger family. The plaque on the painting says that it was donated to the Institute by Taylor Woodmere, Woodmere Family Foundation, Kenilworth, Illinois. Gerta announces to one and all that this painting was stolen by the Nazis and she will go to the museum director and make sure they look up the provenance of this painting. She makes good on her threat and the accusation brings scandal to the Woodmere family. After this, the book goes back to 1937 when Taylor is sent off to Paris to represent his family at a business conference. Of course, 1937 Europe was in a state of confusion as Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party was taking over Germany and persecuting the Jewish population, gearing up for an invasion. Taylor goes reluctantly to Paris leaving his girlfriend, Emily, behind. However once he arrives he meets Sarah Berger, daughter of a business associate of his father's and falls in love with her. A few hours before this fateful meeting he sees a painting by Impressionist Artist Henri Lebasque and buys it for his girl in Chicago. When Taylor falls for Sarah he notifies his family that he is going on to Berlin for a visit to see the factories of Sarah's father and spend more time with Sarah. When Taylor is finally called home by his family he leaves the picture for Sarah. The Bergers become trapped by the Nazis and Mr. Berger is taken away. Sarah and her mother leave and the lovers are not able to be reunited. Back to the 1960's, Rachel Gold, a lovely Chicago girl, becomes pregnant and subsequently abandoned by her boyfriend, Court Woodmere, who is Taylor's son. She goes to New York to live with her aunt who is a Holocaust survivor, has her son, and goes on to college, where whe meets Richard Stone, an instructor and eventually marries him. She also has a lucrative career working for a well-known magazine. Years later, when the dispute over the provenance of the painting is made public, Rachel's grown son becomes disturbed, as he remembers the picture and is sure that he has seen it somewhere. It comes down to the fact that Taylor Woodmere is the only one who can explain the complicated puzzles that crop up in the lives of these people. The ending of this book will touch your heart. Pictures of the Past is a wonderful work of historical fiction. The writing is first class with a look into the times right before World War II and looking into the lives and events of the era from a time filled with horror and hate. The love story of Taylor and Sarah lasts though all the years of separation. I have to say, again, I loved this book!! The author did such a good job of keeping the characters interesting and readers will not get confused by who these people are and where

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