In Sara Houghtelingís debut novel, paintings are a metaphor for love: knowing when itís real, knowing when itís a fake, and recognizing a masterpiece.
Max is the son of a well-respected Jewish art dealer in Paris. Despite his desire and ambition, Maxís father is reluctant to immerse his son in the family business. Instead, the art dealer brings on board a young lady as his assistant. Max immediately takes a liking to this somewhat mysterious woman.
Unfortunately, World War II gets too close for comfort, and the whole family flees to ride it out in an isolated farm in the south of France. When Max and the family return to Paris they find that, like the city, their gallery has been looted and burned.
Max becomes obsessed with finding his fatherís stolen artwork and developing a relationship with the female assistant, who stayed in Paris the whole time. Though his efforts on both levels are largely in vain, Max does solve one family mystery that explains his fatherís admiration for a piece of art he refused to ever sell.
Despite the slow pace at times, the plot and the prose of Pictures at an Exhibition are very engaging. Fans of art history will enjoy the well-researched details of the story line.
Not every question is answered and it is not a happy Hollywood ending. But hey, who said life would be easy following World War II?
The Bottom Line:
Allís fair in love and war. Recommended.