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I read a lot of debut fiction, in part because editors often seek my endorsement for these books, but also because one of my greatest pleasures as a reader is the discovery of a fresh voice. Sarah Houghteling’s voice is fresh indeed, yet it is also remarkably mature. Pictures at an Exhibition is at once an authoritative historical novel, a family saga, a labyrinthine love story, and a sumptuous meditation on the purpose and value of material beauty when war threatens the very fiber of civilization.
In constructing her true-to-life story about Jewish art collectors before and after World War II, Houghteling made a clever and sophisticated choice. Through the eyes of her narrator, Max Berenzon--an impetuous young man who yearns to fill the shoes of his elegant father, not just an art dealer but a patron to the likes of Picasso and Matisse--she begins by showing us high-society Paris of 1939, a place of such prosperity and worldliness that those who occupy it can hardly believe it will be vulnerable to the palpable winds of political change. Yet as we readers know from our 21st-century perch, this world will soon and swiftly fall apart. (Those who savor irony will think of our own society a year ago now.) And then, in a bold fictional move, Houghteling bypasses the events of the war itself, vaulting us forward to the time of reckoning: for Max, for his father, and for the shell-shocked survivors of a divided France--among them Rose, a talented art connoisseur who attracts yet mystifies Max. In order to help safeguard her country’s artistic legacy, did she collaborate with the Nazis?
Max’s twin obsessions with repossessing his father’s plundered art collection and understanding this elusive woman provide the momentum for a story that is suspenseful, moving, illuminating, and ultimately satisfying. It solves a captivating mystery while showing us yet again how our lives, regardless of our private fortunes, will bend to the forces of history.--Julia Glass
(Photo © Peter Ross)--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I found the storyline interesting, but the book does not grip you.
Very well researched and very well written, I recommend this book to those who love art as well as those who are fascinated by history.
Bravo to the author-- Sara Houghteling has done a magnificent job in putting the reader into the story through young Max's eyes.
“A thriller, a travelogue, and a mystery,” said the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about this 2009 novel, the story of Max Berenzon, son of a successful Parisian art dealer who, in the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Victoria Weisfeld
It took awhile to warm to the characters in this story but something drew me in and I was rewarded in the end with an insightful, well written historical fiction.Published 5 months ago by Edwards
With the years before and immediately after WE II as time frame, this is a fictionalized account of the horrific loss of the world's great art masterpieces. Read morePublished 6 months ago by US Writer
I liked this book very much at the beginning and parts of it were interesting, but I wearied of it.Published 6 months ago by Emily P. Williams
This book was difficult for me to read. Nazi Paris is always hard to grasp, but the relationships in this book are extremely hard to comprehend. Read morePublished 13 months ago by jscreative
I'VE HEARD STORIES ABOUT THE ART THAT WAS MISSING AND LEARNING ABOUT IT IN A HISTORICAL STORY WAS VERY INTERESTING.Published 16 months ago by KAREN SCHWARTZMAN
This book is well-written and gives one more insight into the world of art collecting and the scale of which art treasures were stolen by the Nazis during World War II.Published 16 months ago by Leslie B.
Didn,t like the main character but the story was an excellent one particularly as it includes a real life person who made a significant contribution during the nazi occupation.Published 17 months ago by Maria