By Charles J. Schneider
I've always been one to walk through art museums and wonder to myself what the story is behind some of the greats. I’ve wondered about the people at the picnic Monet painted or the view of a sunflower from Van Gogh’s easel.. There’s got to be a story there, don’t you think? A Portrait in Time by Charles J. Schneider tells us a story behind some famous portraits in history, and even as I sit here now I wonder if there’s any truth to the tale Schneider so elegantly weaves for us.
When Nicole Bruante wakes up in an art museum naked, next to the naked body of a dead man, with little idea who she is or where she is, A Portrait in Time is just getting started. As she races to escape the police, she doesn’t quite have the chance to glance around and see the multitude of paintings adorning the wall of a woman in the nude that happens to look almost identical to her.
As she begins to remember who she is, she searches for an answer to where she is – which leads her to a woman named Susanne Bruante. Although Nicole remembers her own name, not too much else is coming to her as she seeks out Susanne, someone she guesses she must be related to in some way. When the two finally meet, the shock at how alike they look to one another is baffling. Susanne immediately contacts her uncle, Henri, who might know more.
As Schneider masterfully begins to unfold Nicole’s story and her memories start to return, we learn that Nicole is quite far from home…only by about 130 years!! And the reason the two Bruante women look alike is because they’re related. Is your mind blown yet? Mine was by this point; so when we learn that the nude model in the Degas and Courbet paintings Susanne is presenting as an upcoming exhibit at the art museum is actually Nicole – she posed for every one of them.
I don’t want to give any additional details about the story itself for fear I’ll ruin it for perspective readers but I cannot go without a discussion about the character development of the two man female characters in A Portrait in Time. Despite their almost identical looks, Nicole and Susanne couldn't be more different. Nicole’s character is beautifully developed with thoughts and emotions that are so selfless that you can’t help but pull for her, for her to have a happy ending. And then there’s Susanne…there is no way in the world the two can be confused with one another. Susanne is the epitome of a selfish brat who thinks only of herself. If they weren't on the same end of the struggle throughout the book, one might think she was Nicole’s nemesis instead of a great-great-great granddaughter to Nicole. But sometimes things aren't always what they seem.
I absolutely adored this book. I intend on putting the spotlight on Schneider so we can learn more about where this great story originated in his brain. I also think I heard there will be a follow-up book to A Portrait in Time and I've got to make sure to catch it when it comes out. To make my rambling review short, I strongly recommend this book and I hope there’s another to follow it soon.