Praise for No Portrait in the Gilded Frame
An open letter to my dear friend Alex Duvan- pen name Tudor Alexander.
This weekend I completed to read through your latest novel NO PORTRAIT IN THE GILDED FRAME - received before publication. You sent it to me most probably as a courtesy for having been schoolmates at Sf. Sava College in Bucharest and for having read your first literary product - The Grandpa's Chair - and certainly all the following novels published in Romania and the U.S.A. I shall share some views on it, certainly not as a literary critic as I am not one, but as one of the numerous readers I expect your novel will enjoy once published. First of all, I think it is a very readable novel with realistic characters and situations and a plot that flows naturally and carries away to several countries and four continents. A very filmable novel too. (Remember that Lucian Pintilie intended to make a movie after your novella FUM?! It is a pity that the project had not materialized.) Your character, Miriam, her life shaped by unexpected circumstances and by the persons she encounters, and, in particular, by the manner in which she faces challenges, prove that you have a good insight and a deep understanding of a woman’s psychology. I liked also that characters from your previous novels appear episodically thus making a link with and integrating the action of this novel into a larger picture created before. I am not going to reveal the plot as I hope the novel will be published soon. The best of luck!
On Facebook, Iuliana Boghez, April 3, 2016
5 stars. Home is where your heart is. A very rich and flavored story, impressive insight in a woman soul, written by a man... a very sensitive man, whom I know from primary school. I read the book with double interest, as his literal work and common memories, from our youth years in Bucharest. This very interesting novel is worth to be read again and again.
Review on Amazon, Mariuca Stroescu, July 6, 2016
5 stars. A masterfully written novel. An intriguing story of a brave and talented woman who meets life’s challenges head on. The author chronicles the story of Miriam, a young woman whose journey from Romania to Israel and then to the United States paints a compelling story of love and determination. Alexander is a superb storyteller.
Review on Amazon, Yvonne Kisiel, July 9, 2016
5 stars. This fascinating, international account of a young woman named Miriam Sommer, takes us from her childhood in Romania to Israel, America and Switzerland. During her youth she discovers a talent for art, but her beauty leads her down some compromising paths. When she finally meets the love of her life, he takes her home to San Diego. There, only after tragedy strikes, does she begin to truly mature. By the end of the book, she has at last gained the wisdom and strength to become an assured, responsible woman. What happens next? A continuing account of Miriam’s family and artistic career could make an interesting sequel!
Review on Goodreads, J. Wynn, July 11, 2016
5 stars. Excellent book a must for all to read.
Review on Amazon, Seashell, July 18, 2016
5 stars. A Portrait in the Pages. I loved this warm, engaging novel about a young woman's journey from a modest childhood in Romania to a period of self-discovery in Israel and finally to a life of wealth, but also loss, in America. The prose is both efficient and compelling; the characters are richly developed. Alexander's descriptions are beautifully crafted, written with the authority of one who has known these places first-hand (as indicated in the brief author's biography). And though the tone is often meditative and introspective, the story is told at a deceptively brisk pace. A simply wonderful book.
Review on Amazon, A customer, July 25, 2016
5 stars. Good read. Excellent portrayal of the main character. The author has obvious personal knowledge of the towns and countries he described. A good read!
Review on Amazon, Amazon Customer, July 26, 2016
5 stars. Great story – a must read! Excellent writing. I love this captivating story about a very talented woman. It is a story with beautiful descriptions of different places, from a little town in Romania, to Israel and to wealthy Southern California.
I enjoyed it! Easy to read!
Review on Amazon, Amazon Customer, August 8, 2016
I read No Portrait in the Gilded Frame and couldn’t put the book down, eager to find out what happens next. It is a love story that transcends borders, knows no prejudice, and seemingly lasts forever; I was so engaged in the story that in my mind I was trying to imagine outcomes and anticipate what would happen next in the life of Miriam. Yes, this novel grabbed me, and enchanted me, and I would warmly recommend it!
On Facebook and email, Greta Leibovits, August 8, 2016
5 stars. A wonderful story about love and a young woman’s transformational journey from Romania to Israel and the United States. A few years ago I began reading purposefully - that is carefully choosing the books I read because they not only give us new perspective, but a really good book can open up new avenues of emotion and thought. No Portrait in a Gilded Frame carried me through an entire palette of wonderful emotions - from hope to faith to empathy. The roller coaster of the main character's own emotions while falling in and out of love with the significant men in her life, while transforming from a young girl, a teenager, into a strong woman, is thrilling.
Review on Amazon, Dana Costache, August 9, 2016
5 stars. Miriam’s innocence in the search for finding love, a sense of belonging. With evocative imagery, vivid descriptions, and refined style, this book recreates a world that is as universal as it's unique to the Jewish Romanian experience in the second half of the 20th century. Miriam's innocence in the search for finding love, a sense of belonging, and her true self is masterfully chronicled in this coming-of-age novel. Readers of all ages and from all corners of the world will enjoy this book just as much as those with shared histories.
Review on Amazon, Diana Zilberman, August 14, 2016
5 stars. A very pleasant and engaging novel, a great summer read! A very well written novel about a Jewish girl from a small provincial town in communist Romania and the story of her transition to a new life. It is the story that will resonate with most of Jews of Romania who left the county during the communist dictatorship. It is a very pleasant read, the story flows seamlessly and at the end I felt that there might be a sequel in the near future. Well worth a read!
Review on Amazon, M. Klein, August 24, 2016
5 stars. Wonderfully written with captivating characters. The determination of those who have left their native lands for another country has always fascinated me. This contemporary story of desire to live life freely while still torn by love and family is told empathically through a damaged, beautiful and talented woman. Throughout the story I felt myself turning the page both wanting the main character to succeed while at the same time slightly irritated with her tactics. Women through the ages have had to rely on their beauty and talent to get ahead, survive and improve their station. This story brought me to an area (Romania) that I was not familiar with and through real historical backdrop tells a story of immigration and liberation, love and deception. I didn't like it... I loved it!
Review on Goodreads, Amy Juras, September 9, 2016
5 stars. The first page of the book pulls the reader in and the thought provoking story has us reading this excellent book to the end. It was extremely interesting to follow the life of Miriam from a young girl until she is in her thirties. The reader gets to move through her experiences first in Romania, then Israel and California. We hear her voice change as she tells her story. She matures along the way and becomes more thoughtful of others, and at the same time more confident of her own self-worth. Another discovery is that the answers to life are not as clear cut as she once thought. Instead of stagnating she learns from life, and we admire this because it is something we want for our own lives. Near the end of the book she says, "Why wait for others to show kindness when I could go first?" Miriam does not say this lightly. It took years of intentional growth for her to be able to say this. The first page of the book pulls the reader in and the thought provoking story has us reading this excellent book to the end. Well worth reading.
Review on Amazon, Judy T., September 13, 2016
5 stars. For readers who are interested in what it was like to be an immigrant to the U.S., thirty years ago, I highly recommend this great story. It’s the saga of a young artist from Romania who migrates to the United States via Israel in search of herself and finds herself the object of desirability by wealthy and somewhat mysterious men. The descriptions of life in Romania in the 50s and 60s are particularly discerning and full of wonderful detail.
Review on Amazon, A. L. Deering, September 14, 2016
5 stars. This book, with its epic scope and beautiful descriptions, captivated me.
Review on Amazon, Elizabeth S. Specter, September 25, 2016
Review on Amazon, Byron E. Foy, October 7, 2016
4 stars. Life’s meandering path. This fictional novel, based on an actual case history, takes the reader through the various phases of the life of Miriam, a young Jewish girl who starts life in Communist Romania and ends her life long saga in Israel. The story takes the reader from Romania to Israel via the USA, on a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences of the young main character, as life takes her on a meandering path from a “austere” existence under Romanian communism to wealth and freedom in the USA. It is interesting to see the metamorphosis of Miriam as she gains life experience and matures through the coincidental paths of life. Her search for true and everlasting love, like her art, never fully materializes yet she resigns to her reality and identity and moves back to Israel where she feels that she really belongs. The book is colorful in describing emotions from Miriam’s point of view as well as the environment of the different places that were part of her adventure through life. Life never follows a predictable script and Miriam’s life is no exception. This “creative biography” is interesting since it dwells on the ever evolving main character and her drive to survive.
Review on Amazon, George Rodneb, October 23, 2016
4 stars. A beautiful story of love and heartbreak. The character voice was powerful and the descriptions were vivid. I especially found the struggle of life on communist Romania compelling, as well as the challenges of immigration.
Review on Amazon, Sarah, November 7, 2016
Review on Amazon, Andrei Moldoveanu, December 1, 2016
4 stars. Miriam’s often painful journey moves across a canvas from Eastern Europe to… Move over, Becky Sharp, to make room for another ambitious, flirtatious, flawed, but fascinating female. Miriam's often painful journey moves across a canvas from Eastern Europe to the western United States. Irritating, elusive, she is always unforgettable. Knowing her is a rewarding experience.
Review on Amazon, Lucy Hoopes, December 5, 2016
5 stars. A captivating/gratifying reading for everybody. Vivid descriptions of characters, events and places, in three different worlds; they bring back memories to those with similar experiences on their way to liberty from the oppressing Eastern European countries of before 1989.
Email from Lia Finkenthal, December 11, 2016
5 stars. I enjoyed very much reading the book. A book about one's own freedom and the complex human relationships that enhance and limit it. A book about meaning and about randomness.
Review on Amazon, Dan Preotescu, December 24, 2016
Beautiful and very realistic descriptions of life in several countries from the 60's to today for a complex character.
Review on Amazon, Amazon Customer, December 28, 2016
I'm currently reading No Portrait in the Gilded Frame by Tudor Alexander and am loving it! I recommend it for all. Alexander writes a blog as well that you may enjoy. Check it out.
Notification on Facebook by Lisa Pierre Nichols, January 9, 2017
Alex, I finished reading No Portrait in the Gilded Frame. Your writing is amazing, details that I could easily envision. It was a great read, the ending was wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing with me - I'm going to pass it through my friends who I'm sure will appreciate it as much as I did.
Email from Jackie Heinrich, January 9, 2017
5 stars. Highly recommended read -- great story and delicious descriptions that make you feel like you are in the room. Go get it peeps...
Notification on Facebook by Michael Aquino, January 16, 2017
5 stars. Tudor Alexander re-awakened my nostalgia for the country in which I was born: Miriam the main character of the No Portrait in the Gilded Frame helped me revisit many memorable places, both in Romania and Israel. Together with her, a very interesting personality, I re-lived, to some extent, my youth. Thank you!
Review on Amazon, Monica Finkenthal, January 16, 2017
In this coming of age story, Miriam, a young Jewish girl, discovers her love of painting, and follows her heart, from Romania to Israel to the US.
Starting in the 1950’s, in a politically hostile Romania, the story is as much about finding our place in the world, especially as an immigrant, as it is about finding love. Alexander has a lovely way with words, showing his ability to describe the experience of belonging and feeling out of place. His prose is expressive and thoughtful.
The plot takes Miriam from a short lived romance with her first art tutor, to a married plastic surgeon, amongst others, and then to Jonathan, a man whose job is mysterious, but lucrative. During this time, her trips back home to her family are strained by her feelings of no longer belonging there, of being too big for her old life.
There’s something about Miriam that feels more and more selfish as time goes on. Perhaps it is the way that she often complains or takes her time when people are waiting on her. She demands a lot of the people around her, and I found her to be not all that relatable in that respect. For almost the whole book she is a woman whose life is paid for by the men that she is with, wealthy men who are in fact are married to other people. In fact, her first lover is a boy who already has a fiancée. She never feels a moments remorse about her behavior, or even seems to think about the future all that much. In essence, her whole life is about her relationships with men that she can benefit from financially, though she clearly cares for them very much in the moment, and though she calls herself a painter, she spends very little time making anything.
She’s a character who isn’t out to get anyone, or hurt anyone, but probably wouldn’t notice if she did.
Where the book shines is in it’s exploration of alienation, and social and political climates and change, and I quite enjoyed reading this book and immersing myself in the experience of others, it was insightful. But after a while, sadly, I found Miriam herself a bit irritating.
Hermione Flavia, January 29, 2017, (firstname.lastname@example.org)(https://cravenwild.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/no-portrait-in-the-gilded-frame-by-tudor-alexander)
3 stars. A study in self-absorption.
The story was well written, but I found the protagonist so self-absorbed that it was off putting.
Review on Amazon, Maureen, February 4, 2017
I read your book with enjoyment and curiosity, and I liked it in its entirety. It is a true literary performance to write convincingly from the point of view of a female protagonist. The feeling of reality is very strong; your characters are now in my mind, as if I had actually met them. (Am citit cu plăcere și curiozitate cartea ta, mi-a plăcut integral. Este o adevărată performanță literară să scrii convingător din perspectiva unui personaj feminin. Iar impresia de viață e foarte puternică, personajele mi-au rămas în minte ca și cum le-aș fi cunoscut în realitate.)
Email from Alex. Ștefănescu, Romanian literary critic providing comments to the Romanian translation of the novel, in English translation, followed, in parenthesis, by the Romanian original, February 5, 2017
No Portrait in the Gilded Frame describes a significant period in Miriam’s life, taking the reader on an exciting journey from her Romanian provincial native town to Israel and the US, through Miriam’s childhood, adolescence, and early maturity. Miriam is a really complex and complicated person - smart, stubborn, sensitive, introspect and cultivated - whose soul never rests while wandering through its own labyrinth. Tudor Alexander does a great literary job creating in Miriam a truly live, human character, with its natural mix of “mostly good” and “mostly bad” features. He even succeeds in making the reader understand (and not necessarily like) the deepening of Miriam’s natural self-centeredness as the challenges she faces only toughen. Not less impressive are all the other characters, each of them real, consistent and colorful, for better and for worse. Last but not least, the times and the places where life takes Miriam are described in a truly realistic - but always witty and charming - manner, making the reader feel as a “real-time, real-place” witness. And I believe this is just what Tudor Alexander intended in the first place. Sensitive, subtle, sensible and vivid writing. A genuine literary treat!
Email from Petre Varadi, February 12, 2017
This novel’s elegant prose beautifully mirrors Miri’s artistic eye for the colors and shapes of the natural world she sees in in her small-town life in war-torn, Holocaust-haunted, and poverty-stricken 1950s Romania. Living with her brother, sister, parents, grandparents, and an orphan whom they took off the street and use as a cook, in a shabby part of a formerly elegant apartment building, she loves and is loved by them all. She has no idea that her family is looked down upon because they are Jews until her first puppy love humiliates her in front of all the other boys in the town.
…This is a beautifully written book told by a writer with both an artist’s eye and a psychologist’s insight – and with quite a bit of political savvy thrown in. I didn’t understand all the cross-currents of ethnic and national bias that seemed to be coloring almost everyone’s perceptions of everyone else in the country, but I did get the idea that these biases were woven deeply into the fabric of the Romanian consciousness.
5 stars. Great book!!
A beautifully written, captivating story of the emotional journey undertaken by the Romanian immigrant Miriam, as she sets off on a long journey that takes her all the way from her homeland to Israel and eventually the United States. The road she follows brings her ups and downs in her struggle for a better life and peace with herself.
AM, March 4, 2017
Alex, I finished your book and enjoyed it much. I found the underlying drama to be the story of an immigrant. Maybe, more so, the story of an emigrant – the story of being away from home and how that colors our experiences. It never leaves, the longing and comfort of home, even though the decision to leave was our own and for the best. To a lesser degree, I see the worlds through that same framework. I was uprooted early and thrown into a different environment. Even though it was a better environment the loss of early friends and the remembrance of early experiences was a constant throughout my life. Like Miriam, the first separation leads to bigger separation and explorations later. Each stage with it's own nostalgia, each with degrees of loss, but none like the primal ache for early home. I enjoyed the structure you used to tell the story. Particularly at the end when the depositions of Miriam's early acquaintances and relatives retold the first few chapters from a different perspective – instead of through Miriam's eyes through her friends and relatives. Clever. Throughout the book I had the feeling that you constrained a deeper psychological or philosophical insight for the sake of moving the story along. Except when Miriam saw the San Diego bay after Jonathon died. Words to the effect 'she was struck how the SD bay looked like all bays, and equally struck by how all bays were unique. The raw seeing that happens after a life altering seminal event, seeing for the first time the character of things familiar but never fully seen.' Thank you for writing the book.
Email by Tom McCabe, March 5, 2017
I hope that the other Romanian, Israeli and American friends of mine will write Amazon reviews for you, because all of them, including a Polish woman, were impressed by your book’s extraordinary style. (Ceilalți prieteni ‘Româno-Israelieni-Americani’ care nu au ‘insert’ comentarii sper că o vor face. Toți au fost impresionați, inclusiv o poloneză, de stilul extraordinary al carții.)
Excerpt from an email by Stela Miron, translated into English (Romanian original in parenthesis), March 7, 2017
Narration: 4 out of 5. I felt that the narration was truly one of the best parts of the book. We didn’t get a great deal of smells and tastes, but the mood and feel of the various places was well-presented, to where I was never at a loss as to where we were in the world. Romania didn’t feel like Israel, and even the different cities within a country felt unique.
The writing was first person from Miriam’s point-of-view, but even when she was young, she was capable of observing and noting others, to a degree, so I didn’t feel stifled…
Content: 4 out of 5. … This is definitely an adult read, as Miriam and her partners share a fair bit of intimacy that happens in the book. The actual sexual act isn’t necessarily described, but there are descriptions of them, afterwards (or before) as they share conversation and discuss their goals, lives, and feelings.
Characters: 3 out of 5. … She struck me as lonely, needy, and eager to be loved, which made sense since her father left her and her siblings when he abandoned and divorced her mother. And there were some characters who I liked, like her brother and a housekeeper, but I never felt like we got close enough to them to really care about them. They were left on the outside while everything tended to focus on Miriam and her emotional and physical state, which felt to me to be still undeveloped towards the end (making me think the title was a reference to her and how she looked perfect on the outside but hadn’t got a great deal of personality and intrinsic characteristics. At best, she is like her art, a work-in-progress; at worst, she’s an abandoned project overpowered by her “frame”).
Artwork: Subjective. I liked the cover, with the artwork set down (or whatever that thing with all the squiggles is), the brushes set aside, the wall blank. It reflected Miriam’s life, how everything was made ready but nothing was ever hung on the wall, as I saw it (but as it is literary fiction, the characters and nature of the story is very much left up to the reader to interpret).
World-Building: 4 out of 5. …I found it interesting to glimpse what life could’ve been like behind the “Iron Curtain,” as the author lived in Romania before moving to the United States. The daily challenges, the attempts to fit in, to be less Jewish, and the frustrations of the Romanian people on the way their country was run and how they couldn’t escape it all came through...
Overall Response: 15 out of 20, for a total of 3.75. …She was well-written, and I felt like I truly got to know her…
Excerpts from a review by Andrea Lundgren, on March 27, 2017 – Book Coach and Curator of the "Into the Writerlea" Blog (https://andrealundgren.com/2017/03/27/book-review-no-portrait-in-the-gilded-frame/)