Historical Fiction: Pictures at an Exhibition, by Sarah Houghteling

1939. Max Berenzon is the son of one of the premier art dealers in Paris, and when his father tells him he doesn’t have what it takes to inherit the business, Max doesn’t know what to think or do. Max settles on med school, where he does only enough to get by. When his father hires a new assistant, the brilliant, eccentric, and beautiful Rose, Max is smitten. It’s only a matter of months until the Nazis overrun France, and no one could foresee the consequences to Jewish citizens or to the art world .

When Paris is liberated nearly 5 years later, Max returns from hiding to Paris, only to discover that the family’s gallery and home have been decimated. His father seems resigned, but Max instantly becomes fixated upon two goals, to find Rose and to recover the priceless artworks stolen by the occupiers. As he pursues his twin obsessions, he learns, day by day, of the enormous and incredible depravities visited by the Nazis upon the city and its population, especially the Jewish segment. And as he struggles, for the rest of his life, to reconcile what was with what is, he comes, finally, to understand his father and himself, as well as others whom he loves.

Pictures is a well-researched, insightful, illuminating novel based upon historical facts and persons. It is one thing to read a dispassionate account of these events, and another to read the same information from a personal perspective. This book is every bit as valuable as the concentration camp stories in helping to humanize the horrors of cultural warfare.

For a video interview with the author, see this .


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