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Extended Audio Sample Pictures at an Exhibition Audiobook, by Sara Houghteling Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (748 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sara Houghteling Narrator: Mark Bramhall Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2009 ISBN: 9780739382134
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Set in a Paris darkened by World War II, Sara Houghteling’s sweeping and sensuous debut novel tells the story of a son’s quest to recover his family’s lost masterpieces, looted by the Nazis during the occupation.

Born to an art dealer and his pianist wife, Max Berenzon is forbidden from entering the family business for reasons he cannot understand. He reluctantly attends medical school, reserving his true passion for his father’s beautiful and brilliant gallery assistant, Rose Clément. When Paris falls to the Nazis, the Berenzons survive in hiding. They return in 1944 to find that their priceless collection has vanished: gone are the Matisses, the Picassos, and a singular Manet of mysterious importance. Madly driven to recover his father’s paintings, Max navigates a torn city of corrupt art dealers, black marketers, Résistants, and collaborators. His quest will reveal the tragic disappearance of his closest friend, the heroism of his lost love, and the truth behind a devastating family secret.

Written with tense drama and a historian’s eye for detail, Houghteling’s novel draws on the real-life stories of France’s preeminent art-dealing familes and the forgotten biography of the only French woman to work as a double agent inside the Nazis’ looted art stronghold. Pictures at an Exhibition conjures the vanished collections, the lives of the artists and their dealers, the exquisite romance, and the shattering loss of a singular era. It is a work of astonishing ambition and beauty from an immensely gifted new novelist.

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Quotes & Awards

  • [An] ambitious and satisfying debut novel. . . . Houghteling dazzlingly recreates the horrors of war, and it’s the small, smart details . . . that make one uncommon family’s suffering all the more powerful. Publishers Weekly
  • Houghteling’s vivid descriptions of paintings and their power add to the allure of this impressive debut novel. Michael Leber, Booklist
  • Exciting . . . Houghteling has immersed herself in the history of the period, and her love of these paintings shines through. Kirkus Reviews
  • “Houghteling received a Fulbright to study paintings that went missing during the war, and the detail shines through in this first novel, which effectively depicts the new reality for Jews in postwar Europe. Amy Ford, Library Journal
  • Pictures at an Exhibition is remarkably self-assured, astute, worldly, and well-informed; in fact, it does not look like a first novel at all. Its subject-matter–stolen paintings, and Nazis, and the insatiable hunger for beauty–requires both erudition and brilliance, and Sara Houghteling has plenty of both, along with a sense of humor and a warm heart. Charles Baxter, author of The Soul Thief
  • A timely and touching first novel set in the World War II Paris art world that will appeal to all art lovers and especially to those addicted to following the vagaries of Nazi loot. Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa
  • In times like this, one turns to books like Pictures at an Exhibition for their exhilarating sense of wonder and ambition. No other book I have read in a long time has such depth of history and intelligence, setting art as antidote for suffering, and love as both a cause and remedy for pain. Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli
  • What a beautiful book! Sara Houghteling’s theme here is attachment: to the beauty of art, to childhood, to a world before loss and tragedy. The Paris she conjures for us is vivid and sad, the paintings she describes are glorious. Her prose is luminous. Sophie Gee, author of The Scandal of the Season
  • “In Pictures at an Exhibition, Sara Houghteling breathes new life into one of history’s great, unfinished stories. As exquisitely detailed and lavishly sensuous as the paintings that populate its pages, this is a riveting debut. Dustin Thomason, co-author of The Rule of Four

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marysue | 2/13/2014

    " the story of a family dealing art in Europe and their struggle to adapt to that loss "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Casey | 2/12/2014

    " It was difficult for me to get into this book until I got about halfway through. =It was difficult to become invested in the characters, especially Max. I will say that it got me interested in the historical references. The Rape of Europa (a book and a documentary) gives historical background of the Nazi's plundering of art and culture if you are further interested. However, everything felt somewhat bland. Houghteling can write beautifully and possibly with the release of another novel she will be able to mature and create more believable characters and a more investing story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 2/7/2014

    " A really interesting story about stolen art in France during WWWII. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat | 2/3/2014

    " This book was educational regarding the looting/saving of art work in Paris Good history of French art work and the Paris art world BUT it needed to be the story of Rose who saved many pieces and tracked where they were headed when stolen. The main character is weak and the family tragedy awful but stupid to withold from a son and keeping him from understanding his mother and from understanding why he couldn't take over fo his father. It does have a happy ending and that redeems it for me "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bonnie | 2/1/2014

    " I thought --after reading a review of this book--I would love this book. The setting is Paris. The topic is interesting --the looting of art by the Nazi during WW2 and the story seemed compelling --a son's struggle to recover the priceless paintings that belonged to his father. The writing is good --beautiful at times but the characters failed to engage me. Well researched but a disappointing book. I debated as to whether it deserved two or three stars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carriecarley | 1/29/2014

    " This was an interesting story - gave insight into a part of WWII that I was not aware of. Would be a good read for those who are interested in, and knowledgeable of, art. However, it was a bit of a downer - after reading it, though I was glad that I did, it left me feeling a little heavy hearted. Not an upbeat story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 1/23/2014

    " Interesting environment - art theft in Paris during the Nazi invasion and shortly thereafter. Story wasn't too bad and some of it was quite interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gloria | 1/22/2014

    " Strong start, but got bogged down in the middle. Ending wrapped up the story nicely. Great historical fiction, based on the real lives of French Jewish art dealers during WW2. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jen | 1/19/2014

    " Interesting read about how famous pieces of art changed hands during WWII. I really loved the sections on the paintings; was less moved by the love story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marty | 1/19/2014

    " This book was recommended to be but I was not all that excited about it. It was ok. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jane Susswein | 12/31/2013

    " Fascinating subject, much better dealt with in Rapeof Europa. Houteling's writing is pedestrian -it was a chore to finsh. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shannon | 11/1/2013

    " Good story, but the writing didn't flow well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Isabell | 2/11/2013

    " This was very interesting. How sad to think we may never see some of the masterpieces that were stolen during this war. And kudos to Rose Valland, the real life heroine that would not compromise on the return of stolen art work. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shirlyn | 4/25/2012

    " very interesting view of WWII of an art dealer and love for the lost art during the war that ended up in someone elses possession or never to be found again "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dana | 11/25/2011

    " An interesting book about stolen art during the Nazi regime. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Anna Maria | 10/25/2010

    " Couldn't make it through... Maybe I was just in the wrong mood. Nevertheless, I am adding it to my "read" shelf. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julieb | 4/8/2010

    " Well researched details about the process of recovering lost art taken during the 1940s during German occupation of Paris. Interesting characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elana | 4/4/2010

    " A great story about Jewish art dealers in Paris before and after (but not during) WWII. I learned so much about what happened to all of these famous and great works of art. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda Books | 3/21/2010

    " Related topic to my After the Auction, but focused on Paris. Beautifully written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane Betz | 8/8/2009

    " sad story about a Jewish art dealer in Europe during WWII. Makes you think about how many paintings have just been destroyed and lost forever. "

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About the Narrator

Mark Bramhall has won thirty-four AudioFile Earphones Awards and has twice been a finalist for the Audiobook Publishers Association’s prestigious Audie Award for best narration. He has been named by Publishers Weekly and AudioFile magazine among their “Best Voices of the Year” in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. He is also an award-winning actor whose acting credits include off-Broadway, regional, and many Los Angeles venues as well as television, animation, and feature films. He has taught and directed at the American Academy of Dramatic Art.