The picture of life in France and Germany at the end of WWII is fascinating and vivid, but despite excerpts from letters and...

READ REVIEW

MY BERLIN CHILD

The first novel to be published in English by French actress and novelist Wiazemsky is a brief, barely fictionalized memoir about her mother Claire, the daughter of Nobel Prize–winning author François Mauriac.

In her mid-20s during World War II, Claire first begins to assert her independence from her tight, traditional Catholic family when she becomes an ambulance driver for the French Red Cross. Despite chronic stomach problems and migraines, she takes serious risks working secretly for the French Resistance. Although officially engaged to Patrice, who is imprisoned in Germany, she flirts with serious romance, first in southern France and then in Alsace as the war winds down. Finally back in Paris, where her family remained during the occupation, she reunites with Patrice, who has gained his freedom, but by the Armistice she realizes she does not love him—although she adores his family. With the engagement broken off, and Germany defeated, she returns to Red Cross duty in Berlin, where she finds the social/political/human drama of postwar devastation compelling. There she meets and falls in love with Ivan Wiazemsky, a Russian-speaking French officer whose aristocratic family fled Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. The obstacles to their marriage may not seem great to Americans: She is Roman Catholic and he is Russian Orthodox; her family is ensconced in the Parisian literary elite class while he is a “cosmopolitan” (a word that no longer carries a clear meaning); her parents have wealth or at least financial security while his are impoverished immigrants despite their fancy titles. Nevertheless Ivan and Claire become engaged. Soon after, Ivan must fight unfounded charges of trafficking with Germans and belonging to a fascist-leaning organization in the 1930s. His name cleared, the lovers marry, Claire becomes pregnant and the author is born.

The picture of life in France and Germany at the end of WWII is fascinating and vivid, but despite excerpts from letters and diaries, the characters of Wiazemsky’s parents remain slightly elusive.

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60945-003-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

WEATHER

An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more