Title: No Portrait in the Gilded Frame
Author: Tudor Alexander
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Print copy mailed by author
My rating: 4/5
An intelligent and captivating story about the emotional journeys we undertake and the corners of the heart we end up calling home, No Portrait in the Gilded Frame takes readers from Romania behind the Iron Curtain to the cosmopolitan cities of Israel and the lavish lifestyles of wealthy Southern California.
Centered around the life of Miriam Sommer, a gifted Jewish painter, the story opens in 1950s Romania and follows her as she experiences her first love, her first encounters with anti-Semitism, and her first betrayal at the hands of a lover.
Escaping heartbreak and searching for inspiration in new places, Miriam travels to Israel, where she meets immigrants and Israelis alike, learns to fend for herself, and starts new and complex relationships.
Her path from the wild girl in a backwater Romanian town to becoming a strong and willful woman fighting for her rights, spans decades and continents. With rich detail and finely crafted characters, No Portrait in the Gilded Frame is a story of emotional depth and beauty that will delight fans of literary fiction.
There were waves of emotions I felt as I was reading through this novel. From feeling inspired by her independence to annoyed with a brat I couldn’t help feeling bad for. Miriam’s story spans from adolescence all the way to a mother of 2 young boys. The jumps between stages of her life were pretty sharp and seeing how long the novel is, it makes sense as the points would be irrelevant to the main themes of the story. I reflected on my own personal relationships as it seemed Miriam’s were quite distinguished and individualized – most of the story was her describing familial, romantic, and platonic relationships she has.
I wish there was more of a focus on art since that was a huge part of her adolescence when she had her heart broken. I can definitely relate to throwing yourself into something creative to expose those emotions in a healthy way to keep moving forward and create the perfect yet unrealistic version of that person – “Drawing was a healing of sorts, because I could draw him when I wanted and in the way I wanted. The way I imagined him”. Her passion for art ebbed and flowed throughout the novel as she fell in love with her art instructor and then became more of a collector when she was older. There was some eluding to it and the end of the narrative as the potential to continue her craft.
Her selfishness and spoiled nature stood out the most to me since it was a turning point in her life when she moved to California with a man who could possibly be her father (a theme of quite a few of her romantic relationships). “You’re a spoiled American now” she was told after she was denied mineral water at a restaurant. However, after having children and the eldest was sick in the hospital, her mindset began to change, thank goodness. “Now I knew that if I could, I would gladly transfer Bari’s pain on to me to relieve him of it. It was not about me anymore, as it had been in the past, but about him. About them.”
I appreciated the transformation she endured, both in positive and challenging ways – it made her stronger and more realistic. One could argue that the referenced gilded frame is the confinement Miriam finds herself in and is unable to determine what is the finished product – there is so much uncertainty in this lavish lifestyle – Does Jonathan love her? What are his secrets? Why won’t he marry her? Who are her true friends? Alexander portrayed a story about family and what the best and worst times look like – a good reminder that all relationships have struggles and test the authenticity and trust but also maximize our potential. All of these demonstrate the power of relationships regardless of how long we’ve been apart.
Read No Portrait in the Gilded Frame if you like the themes of: