Pictures of the Past on Northbrook Library Best Fiction List

                 Pictures of the Past named to Best Fiction of 2011!

Northbrook Library Book News & Review

               Best Books of 2011

Notable fiction books this year include The Paris Wife -Paula McLain’s take on Hemingway’s first marriage – and the baseball story The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, along with Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending and popular favorites such as The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel     Simon and Pictures of the Past by local author Deby Eisenberg. See the full list of Best Fiction of 2011.

 

Pictures of the Past — Love That You Love It!

  • Thank you so much for writing such a detailed and insightful book.  It really helped me understand the horrors around the Holocaust and better grasp the societal entrenchment which prevented many with means from fleeing.  I really enjoyed it. It brought to life a fascinating and broad reaching spectrum of history . . . a compelling and illuminating read. Truly a work of art in and of itself.

Charles

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  •  I just finished the novel and loved!  I took Taylor, Sarah, and everyone else on vacation with me and could have just stayed in the room all curled up with them the entire time!  Honestly, during the story, so many times, I found myself so impressed with all you did to bring their story to life.  I never really thought about all that goes in to writing a great novel, but I am amazed . . .   I also can’t wait until your next venture!

Gayle

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  • It was amazing. The characters were such a part of me by the end I was sorry to see them go.  I loved the history and art, and the way the author completely made their lives, their times, their locations – all come alive, down to the littlest detail about their clothing or the sounds or speaking styles of that period.  I cannot imagine the research that went into the book, and I can truly say I see my own world, architecture and art much differently and with a much keener eye after reading it.

Patty
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  •  I just had the best vacation with Pictures of the Past.  Loved, loved, loved it. I am so sorry it is over. The characters were so real to me. I hope I will see them in a movie one day. Thank you for my history lessons and the clever tidbits of info, like Waldorf and Oscar.  My husband proposed to me at Gilson Park, not that far from my house on Sheridan.

Marlene

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  •  What an amazing story!!! I literally couldn’t put it down!

Samantha

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  • I have just finished reading Pictures of the Past and wanted to write to tell you just how much I loved your book!!  It was wonderful!  The story was intriguing and made me want to keep reading.  I enjoy reading historical novels based during the WWII years and have read several about the Holocaust.  I enjoyed the way you interwove the stories of the different characters and brought them all together at the end.  I look forward to reading more books written by you in the future.  Thank you for writing such a wonderful book!

Laura P

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  • I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and was eager to find the outcome.  The book was well-written, well-researched and a good read.

Eileen

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Recent Author Interview

 

Authoress Deby was kind enough to grant me some time for a little Q&A; enjoy!

As the reader experiences the terrors of Nazi Germany through the story of Sarah Berger it becomes clear that a lot of effort went into the research of this history. What motivated you to pursue a novel set in this particular time of the world?

I love that you posed that question because it indicates that I have accomplished one main goal in writing the novel– that the reader could understand the terror by following and identifying with the story of one young woman. As a Jewish person, I have had a lifetime of exposure to the stories of our struggles during Hitler’s regime, but there is certainly a universality of the experience of oppressed people during times of war, and it is true throughout literature that from eras most deprived of morality, emerge a vault of stories so rich in substance that became my models. I actually developed into a avid reader after being impressed by writers such a Leon Uris, with Exodus and Mila 18, and Herman Wouk with War and Remembrance.

You may be surprised to know that my original premise for the story began as Rusty and Rachel’s story – a little boy with a strong memory of a painting and a mansion, but before I knew it, the story melded into the story of Taylor and Sarah. As a former high school English teacher, I have always valued the process of researching for a paper, and so I was naturally drawn to a story where I could incorporate research and first-hand knowledge from our travels.

A crucial piece of the story is the mystery of the Impressionist painting, one of two works by real-life French Impressionist Henri Lebasque that you created for the purpose of the story. Why did you choose the Impressionist movement – and Henri Lebasque, in particular – to help you depict the painting?

When I was choosing an artist for the painting, I wanted one that was a real Impressionist (yes, my favorite period – could you guess?), but not one that was extremely well known. Through some research I came upon Henri Lebasque – and then I made up a painting he could have done, as a true painting would have its own true provenance (by the way, my working title was Seeking Provenance). The rest was divine coincidence. When I decided to choose 1937 for the year when Taylor Woodmere could logically still go to Paris for business, it turned out that there was a World’s Fair there that year and that Lebasque was in the Fair. My original description of the painting was the second painting that Sarah saw in Berlin. On the great suggestion of editor Ann Patty, I changed the theme of the main painting to reflect the theme of the novel.

 

The novel highlights the lives of several intriguing characters, especially the empowering women such as Sarah Berger and Rachel Gold. Did you base any of the characters on women who’ve inspired you throughout your life?

Certainly when referring to inspiring women, Sarah is an embodiment of so many female heroes in the history of the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel.

Although I have always insisted that no one in the novel was based on anyone that I knew, just on characters that I could imagine and develop from my experience reading and researching (and living) that could be real – I did finally have to say – yes, there is a lot of me (or alternative universe me) in Rachel Gold and I never consciously set out to do that. I was a waitress for a few summers while my husband was in medical school. I did go to the University of Illinois for undergraduate work and always loved hanging around Northwestern near our hometown. (Eventually, I received my Masters from the University of Chicago, though). If I had a dream job – yes, it would have been writing for an architecture magazine – I love writing and mansions and Newport Rhode Island. So, I guess there is a lot of Deby in Rachel. Oh yes, one real person, real name – my Uncle Chal who did magic tricks when we visited him in Omaha.

You were partly inspired to write Pictures of the Past as a result of your position as the leader of a book club for many years. What do you think are the benefits of getting involved in a book club or book discussion group?

I believe there is a camaraderie of shared interests that is the substance of relationships, and so people flock to a book club for this reason. I do say this on my website, “They want to learn about people in contemporary times and in the context of history, but they also want to fall in love with a good story. When we are particularly challenged by the literature, I remind them that this is why we are in a book club. We want to expand our vision of the world and enhance our experience with language.” I have often said this line in introducing my book to Book Clubs and organization events –As a book club leader, I challenged myself to write a novel that my readers could not put down and would love to discuss. My greatest delight is that, perhaps, my mission was successful.

Your mission was most certainly successful! Pictures of the Past is truly an engaging and fascinating read…so now I have to pose the question: do you see yourself writing more novels in the future?

Absolutely. In fact, I already have written the first chapters of what may be my next novel, but the post-publication process for Pictures of the Past is very time consuming. I do look forward, however, to immersing myself, once again, in my new little world over iced tea at Panera.

Professional Review By Book Blogger–Casee Marie

I was very intrigued when presented with the opportunity to read Pictures of the Past, Deby Eisenberg’s recently published debut novel. On the surface it encompasses all of my particular interests in a book: history, romance, Impressionist art and, of course, Paris, but no more does the reader study the first pages than they realize that Pictures of the Past offers something even bigger: a striking understanding of the plight of Jewish families throughout the horrors of the Holocaust and a renewed appreciation for life in its greatest simplicity.

The novel takes us through generations of hardships, each unique to their era, beginning in modern-day Chicago where an Impressionist painting on display at the Art Institute, a treasure donated by celebrated philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is charged as a Nazi theft. The claim takes us back to 1930s Paris, where the story of Taylor Woodmere truly begins. As he journeys to Europe on his first independent venture for the business of his forefathers we learn of the would-be fiancé he left behind, of his instantaneous connection with the city of Paris, of the Impressionist painting that captivates him and finally of his meeting with the German Sarah Berger. Their blissful romance is beautifully depicted amid the simple treasures of the German country whilst the shroud of the Nazi regime lingers threateningly in the background, inevitably proceeding to wreak havoc on Taylor and Sarah’s dream world. Together – and apart – they face the garish realities of an unjust war and Sarah takes a centric role in the center of her terrorizing quandary as a Jewish woman alone in a perilous place. Woven betwixt their tale is the story of Rachel Gold, a young girl left pregnant and abandoned by Taylor’s son, Court, in the 1960s. In her quest to secure a better life for herself and her son, Jason (aka Rusty), she travels from Chicago to New York where she pursues a life of normalcy with Aunt Ida, a Holocaust survivor and great friend. Through Ida’s connection to the life and times of Sarah Berger, and Rachel’s connection to the heroic Taylor Woodmere a bond is forged through the eras, weaving the history of one family and illuminating the tragedy of the Holocaust, a tragedy that still resonates through time and space to our world today.

Pictures of the Past is a truly remarkable creation that handles some immense topics with honesty, grace and aplomb. Deby Eisenberg combined an extensive knowledge of a particular history with truly memorable characters and a clear talent for writing, leading the reader to attest that no one else could have told the story of Taylor Woodmere, Sarah Berger, Rachel and Jason Gold and the beautiful Impressionist painting with any more polish or success. I was enthralled with Pictures of the Past, so much that I’m likely to revisit it in the future to experience the novel all over again

Latest Good Reads Reader Reviews

 

Oct 30, 2011

Patti rated it: 5 Stars 

 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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 October 31.

Belle rated it: 5 Stars 

The story encirlces this wonderful painting and enfolds with so many characters. I felt the emotion of all of them; happiness, love and certainly, fear. When Inga, Sarah’s mother, put her on the ship (for freedom) and did not get on herself and said goodbye, I had to put the book down as I could not contain by tears. Thinking of my own losses of my family (aunts, uncles, cousins) due to the Holocust certainly came to mind. The ending of Sarah and Taylor meeting at the airport after so many years brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for for your insight into people and putting it on paper. I hope you will write another book very soon.

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Latest Good Reads Reader Reviews

Oct 09, 2011

Adrienne rated it: 5 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pictures of the Past from the beginning to the end. The character development and settings were so descriptive that I easily formed pictures in my mind throughout the book and felt as if I were travelling along with the characters throughout the storyline. I am a big fan of historical fiction and I enjoy reading about the time period from pre-World War II to the present. The format of short chapters depicting the lives, feelings and experiences of the different chara…moreI thoroughly enjoyed reading Pictures of the Past from the beginning to the end. The character development and settings were so descriptive that I easily formed pictures in my mind throughout the book and felt as if I were travelling along with the characters throughout the storyline. I am a big fan of historical fiction and I enjoy reading about the time period from pre-World War II to the present. The format of short chapters depicting the lives, feelings and experiences of the different characters moving back and forth over 60 years made the reading of the book both engrossing and quick paced. I could hardly put down the book at night and couldn’t wait to pick it up to continue reading upon awakening. I was so sorry to come to the conclusion as I felt as if I had entered into the lives of many of the characters and was sad to say goodbye!

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Oct 07, 2011

University of Chicago Magazine added it

Shelves: graduate-school-of-education

Deby Eisenberg, MST’75
Author

From the mansions of Chicago’s North Shore to the European capitals of Paris and Berlin, from pre-World War II to the present, this compelling historical fiction traces an Impressionist painting and a young love diverted by the Nazis. When a work of art he had donated to the Art Institute decades earlier is challenged as a Nazi theft, the heart-grabbing story of philanthropist Taylor Woodmere unfolds. From a world torn by the horrors of war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.

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Oct 17, 2011

Barry Goldberg rated it: 5 Stars

This book is a too good to put down— a very fast read. Starts with complicated romances intertwined with very difficult times and events in world history and travels back and forth through the lives and more complicated romances of the future generations. Along the way, a captivating portrait of life in the late 30’s and early 40’s in America and Germany and similar times in the later part of the 20th century.

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Oct 06, 2011

Robin rated it: 5 Stars

Pictures of the Past is a great first novel for the author. The story and the characters captured me from the beginning. Especially liked the way the story flowed from the past to the present.

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Oct 14, 2011

Leatte Gelfeld rated it: 5 Stars

This was an amazing book that I did not want to put down. I would highly reccommend it!!

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Latest Amazon Reader Reviews

 

5.0 out of 5 stars: Must Read!!!, October 11, 2011

By D. Sabin

Pictures of the Past is a compelling work of historical fiction. As a former librarian I have read hundreds of works that try to capture the tragedy that was the Holocaust. This book gives the reader a glimpse into how the events surrounding World War II affected not only the people who lived through those years, but also the generations that would follow. By centering this novel around a few interconnected characters, Eisenberg was able to create a story that will captivate readers ages (15 and up). This book should have a permanent spot in all high school and public libraries. Pictures of the Past will inspire you, haunt you,  and most of all, reaffirm your belief in the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

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5.0 out of 5 stars: A wonderful read that will keep you enthralled to the end. October 10, 2011

By M. Lignor (New York, NY)
(REAL NAME)   

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 heart wrenching 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, in 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 she 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 they fit into the story. This is a wonderful read and will keep you enthralled until the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars: Great book!, October 16, 2011

By Bob C.

I generally read mysteries so I was a bit hesitant when my wife highly recommended that I read Pictures of the Past. I took it on a business trip and, I have to admit, I could not put it down. I liked how the individual stories were interwoven and then came together at the end. The author did a wonderful job of developing the characters and providing historical background that made the book come to life.

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5.0 out of 5 stars: A great Read!, October 16, 2011

By Ruth Wool

Pictures of the Past is a wonderful story beautifully written with rich character development against a fascinating backdrop of present day and pre-World War II Europe. It kept me hooked from the first page until the last. I know everyone will love reading this book as much as I did.

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5.0 out of 5 stars: New voice in fiction, October 13, 2011

By  Sherry Goldberg  (LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS, USA)

Deby Eisenberg brings an important new voice to fiction. The characters are intriguing and believable. The readers are taken on an unforgettable journey across continents, covering generations. It’s the type of story where you want to know what happens next, so you really can’t put it down. I especially loved hearing about Taylor’s life in Kenilworth, since that town is so close to me. The ending is well worth the read!

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5.0 out of 5 stars: From Generation to Generation…., October 12, 2011

By BG

Pictures of the Past is a wonderful story that is a mix of history, Holocaust terrors and a love story that brings tears to your eyes over and over again. The book revived many memories from the past regarding the history and background of my own family.  So many people have connections to the Holocaust and to the loss of family or friends at that time. One can also relate to many of the wonderful traditions mentioned in the book.  I especially enjoyed the references to the places and locations I myself love in the city of Chicago, such as the Art Institute, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. The author’s descriptions of Paris and Berlin allow the reader to envision those cities,  even if the reader has never been to those locations. One really does not want to put this book down.
The saga of this family is so well written.  I cannot wait for the author’s next book!!

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5.0 out of 5 stars: Truly engaging, October 9, 2011

By  Joan F.

If you are a fan of well-researched historical fiction, memorable characters, engaging plots, and, in general, remarkable stories vividly told, you will love Pictures of the Past by Deby Eisenberg. I loved the way an Impressionist painting became the focus that wove together one family’s story spanning over 60 years. The gripping saga incorporates intrigue, history, modern times, human emotion, and an amazing love story in such a way that I could not put the book down.

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5.0 out of 5 stars: Fabulous and Unique Historical Fiction, October 6, 2011

By  P. Gilbert “Obsessed with reading” (chicago, IL)
(REAL NAME)   

Pictures of the Past was one of my favorite books. Characters were engaging, the setting came alive with wonderfully detailed descriptions, and the interesting concept of the picture’s provenance was unique. This was a quick read and left me wanting a sequel to be written to learn more about the future of the brilliant and captivating characters. The book was exceptional for me because some of the setting was in Chicago. I also significantly enjoyed the historical flavor. Finally, the unusual idea of tying in the provenance of the picture with the story only added to this clever and heartfelt plot.

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5.0 out of 5 stars:  Amazing, August 26, 2011

By Carlee Londo

After reading Sarah’s Key, I was drawn to this novel because of the subject matter of the Holocaust. I also liked the contemporary storyline involving young people. It was an easily engaging, but very informative read, with all the best elements of intriguing venues, love and war.

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5.0 out of 5 stars: Pictures of the Past, August 25, 2011

By  Gerald Farby, MD –

A really interesting concept, with engrossing characters. The pace of the story easily kept my interest and made me eager to get to the next chapter. It’s hard to imagine not enjoying this book.

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Professional Review: Pictures of the Past

Pictures of the Past

Reviewed by Mary Lignor of Bookpleasures.com

  • 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 heart wrenching 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 through 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 they fit into the story.  This is a wonderful read and will keep you enthralled until the end.