Email this review


This tale of how a beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed Castilian woman transplants her aristocratic family from stagnant and impoverished Spain of the 1860s to new lands in California is an obvious work of love by author Alfred Coppel (The Hastings Conspiracy, The Burning Mountain). Adriana has been educated above her station as a woman in Spain, and marries a widowed German Jewish banker, Micah Marburg, both for love and to provide financial security for the Santana hacienda. Micah's son by the first marriage, Aaron, is closer to Adriana in age and temperament; by page 11 we know that someday these two will be lovers, and probably star-crossed ones at that. (Aaron: ""The thought of. . .never seeing his stepmother again gave him a thrill of delicious grief."") Coppel paints a harsh portrait of both the macho Castilian society and the claustrophobic concerns of the Jewish banking family, the Marburgs--and Adriana and Micah (and later Aaron, and his son Alex, who elopes with Adriana's granddaughter) are the enlightened seekers of romantic love, self-realization, and modern science. This mix of pop psychology and historical romance results in some incongruous scenes--Woody Allen meets Hemingway--but Coppel comes up with several moments of true power. His rather too-Steinbeck California finale is a letdown, but his portrait of revolutionary Mexico makes up for it; and he has had the good taste not to include the San Francisco Earthquake. A generational-immigrant saga distinguished by some unsentimental situations and concerns, The Marburg Chronicles alternates between predictable and daring, a heavy mix of matzoh and chili peppers that shouldn't, however, require Pepto-Bismol before bedtime.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton