“Pictures of the Past” by Deby Eisenberg


Thanks to Studio House Literary via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The provenance of a painting is called into question when an elderly holocaust survivor visits the Chicago Institute of Art and identifies “Jeune Fille a la Plage” by Henri Lebasque as having belonged to her neighbors, the Bergers, back in Berlin in 1937. In order to exonerate Taylor Woodmere and Woodmere Foundation, truths must be brought to light which require the unravelling of many layers of family secrets. Two lives come full circle and help to unite a larger family of several generations.

My thoughts:

While the main story was a good one, this book left me disappointed in several ways. Parts of it seemed to drag on and on. Entirely too much time was spent in the “falling in love” of Taylor and Sarah in Paris and Berlin. Love at first sight stories (especially involving a character who is practically engaged to someone else) can be very cliche and unrealistic and this was the case here. In fact all of the love scenes seemed very saccharine to me, reminding me of a mail-order romance book from the 1980’s. They just seemed overly done and too mooshey gooshey for a serious work. The whole Rachel/Rusty story seemed implausibly coincidental and convenient. I was disappointed in the depth of some of the characters (Emily, Rachel) and questioned the role of other’s in the book at all (The Spinners).

I did appreciate the author’s incorporation of the voyage of the St. Louis as it is a piece of history that I had previously read little about. I was inspired to do some research and reading on my own which I found to be very sad and frustrating.

My rating: 2 stars