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Pictures of the Past

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  443 ratings  ·  105 reviews
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 grip ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published August 2011 by Studio House Literary
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Community Reviews

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From Generation to Generation…..

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 reference
I really enjoyed this novel and I think it is a novel that will mean so many things to so many people.

This is a love story sweeping through Chicago, Paris and Berlin reliving events from pre-World War Two but beginning in 2004 when an elderly lady by the name of Gerta challenges the ownership of an impressionist painting hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the Woodmere Family. She insists that this painting belonged to her Jewish neighbours, the Berger family in Berlin before
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 renew ...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
A Powerful family saga spanning WW2 to the present day.

Wow, I didn’t think I’d find this my cup of tea, but you are instantly drawn to the characters, particularly the Berger family .

The author has completed some serious research both from the historical and artistic points of view and the book covers a lot of ground, sixty years and multiple countries. However, the writing does keep your interest throughout right up to the final very moving words.

I received this book for free from the publishe
Nancy Brady
Full disclosure: I received this novel directly from the author as a giveaway through Shelf Awareness. Thanks to the author.

Spanning six decades and two continents, this is the saga of three generations of an interrelated family. It is a love story; it is history; it is art, and more. Taylor Woodmere, the son of Addison Woodmere, is sent to Paris in 1937 to meet with a business associate of his father. There he meets Sarah Berger,the daughter of Emanuel Berger. But the war parts the pair, but t
This book has plot lines related to the Holocaust and to a sort-of mystery concerning a painting, which are usually big draws for me. It doesn't reach its potential because the characters lack depth and the plot lines are not developed. The movement back and forth between characters in different time periods seems like a rush to connect all the dots that results in two-dimensionality rather than a three-dimensional work. The book was easy to read (is there such a thing as "Holocaust-light"? perh ...more
Amy Lignor
This novel is one of the most intriguing and beautiful books that I have ever read. It contains so much inspiration and love - also a healthy mixture of heartbreak and hate - that a review is almost impossible to write in order to do the author justice. It is so full of personal stories - characters who are both rich and poor living through the heart-wrenching horror of war and separation, that it is truly an epic tale that takes the reader from Chicago to Paris to Berlin and back to New York, c ...more
"Pictures of the Past" by Deby Eisenberg ~ Pre-WWII Historical Fiction

Cover Rating :
Beautiful composition for this cover. The elegant frames fore-shadow an underlying story of art, the damask background gives a sense of opulence, as does the framed staircase. The Nazi banner, Eiffel Tower and the couple reminiscent of the 1940's tells the rest of the story. I love the font used and the entire layout. Sepia tones also date the pictures beautifully. Easily a book I would grab off the shelves to t
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 ...more

I was drawn into this story from page one. It is one of the best books I have read, with a story rich in characters that you would love to meet and have conversations and a story about the holocaust that is well researched and beautifully written. Do not miss this one.
Debbie Krenzer
I think this book started off pretty well and I was definitely interested in it at the beginning. Then it began talking about stuff that didn't affect the story at all. I would call it "a load of filler". And the sermon that the resistance guy was giving, seriously? I know I skipped like 12 pages during that part. Maybe a paragraph about how the man really touched Sarah, but the whole doggone thing?

I also found that either sentences or paragraphs were left out in my e-galley which definitely at
Pictures of the Past by Deby Eisenberg is a novel that starts in 2004 in Chicago, Illinois and then goes back in time to relate the story (which seems to be very popular right now in books). Gerta Rosen is celebrating her birthday in 2004 by going to the Art Institute of Chicago. She sees a painting by Henri Lebasque titled “Girl at the Beach” (the English translation). When Gerta sees the plaque that states Taylor Woodmere donated the piece to the museum she is upset. Gerta remembers seeing the ...more
This novel spans from 1937, Pre World War II to the year 2005. Taking a love story that began in 1937 and intertwining it throughout the generations that followed until it comes full circle for the reader. I love the historical background the author uses to describe Germany and Europe during this pre war season. Where things are just heating up with Hitler, and one of the main characters is a Jew.
I struggled a bit in the beginning of the novel as the story was getting set up. The author needed
I was disappointed in this book. The writing was heavy handed, the characters shallow, and the research seemed to be superficial. The author could have explained why an American businessman was interested in business with a Jewish Berliner on the eve of WWII, instead she described the table settings at two meals in Paris. The bicycle company in America after WWII was not realistic, the postwar period coincided with the rise of manufacturing agreements overseas, particularly in postwar Japan. Als ...more
Lisa  (Bookworm Lisa)
This book is beautifully written. It follows the stories of several people, all connected in some way by a picture. This book encompasses contemporary times, World War II, and the 1960's.

Every story is somehow tragically touched by the atrocities done to the Jews during WWII. The book opens when an elderly lady is taken to the Art Institute of Chicago and sees a painting that she remembers hanging in her neighbors home in Berlin. It was at the Berger family, a Jewish family. She sees this painti
Bonnie (Words at Home Blog)
Original review posted on Hands and Home Blog Feb 16, 2012:

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 no
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
I enjoy historical novels. The World War II years are a time that fascinate me. I love art. Package all three of those together in one novel and I'm hooked. That the story is compelling is even better.

Taylor Woodmere's story begins in 1937 when he travels to France and Germany on business. He leaves behind a girlfriend and doesn't anticipate falling in love with the daughter of his German associate or a painting. What follows is a story I was quickly drawn into and one that spans oceans and gen

Pictures of the Past is a love story. That would be the simple way of describing it, but it's really so much more. The book travels from past to present and then back again introducing many different characters. Each character's narrative is shared. Eventually all these stories come together to create this wonderful book.

It's 1937 and Europe is on the verge of war. Taylor Woodmere, a young American, leaves his soon to be fiancé in Chicago and travels to Paris on Company business. While in Pari
Bonnye Reed
XXX I received this book as a gift from Deby Eisenberg. Thank you, Miss Eisenberg, I really wanted to read your novel but was not a winner in the Goodreads Giveaway.

This is an incredible novel. Telling the story of three families from pre-WWII to the 1980's, the story appears to center around the ownership of a small painting by a little known French Impressionist. And that painting beautifully ties together the lives and worlds of the Chicago Woodmere's, the Berlin Berger's and of the Chicago a
Sally Coles
A very good historical saga combining the stories of Taylor Woodmere, Sara Berger and Rachel Gold and weaving them all together.

The story starts with an old lady seeing a painting displayed by Taylor Woodmere and accusing him of having a Nazi theft. We then learn the story of the painting told by Taylor as a young man when he went on business to Europe in 1937 and fell in love with the painting and his business associates daughter a half Jewish girl Sarah Berger.

Alternating chapters are told by
I highly recommend this novel. I really felt that I came to know and care about the characters, and I loved following their individual stories, waiting to see how it all would come together. And I especially liked that it was historical fiction. The author’s descriptions really brought you through the eras. There were events that I had heard of before, but now could really envision, such as the voyage of The St. Louis. Lastly, there's something about reading a historical fiction while on a train ...more
University of Chicago Magazine
Deby Eisenberg, MST'75

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
Ann Marie

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
Barry Goldberg
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.
This was a heart warming story, rambling at times, but worth the journey. Much is presumed, mainly that Americans were able to see the evil that existed in Germany preceding WWII. Also that paths that divert can easily cross again. If you are able to get over the liberties that are taken, then you will enjoy this book.
Oct 30, 2011 Patti added it
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!
I won a copy of this book and although the subject sounds like a very sad story set during a very difficult time of WWII and Hitler's time and treatment of the Jews.....the author just kind of skims the really bad stuff and tells a story with really several story lines going on at one time. I did read the book over a couple of days. I usually tear into a new book and find that I'm so engrossed I couldn't put it down. This book wasn't quite as engrossing although I did enjoy the story enough to f ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sharon by: Hadassah Magazine
No matter how many stories I read like this and even though the're historical fiction I have tears in my eyes at the end.. Great book
I really enjoyed this book and would have given it a 5 except that I initially had trouble keeping the characters and their places straight. Trying to keep multiple narratives and time frames straight detracts from the pleasure of immersing oneself in the story.
Cheryl Marsh
I just loved this book, I could not put it down. As we got to meet all of the wonderful characters, I looked forward to the next page to see how they would all come together. Going back and forth through time was so much fun.
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As a Book Club leader for the past sixteen years, 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 literature and creative writing high school teacher and journalist. “I tried to envision a multi-generational love story that would inform as well as entertain, ...more
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