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The best of this story of Austrian Jewish refugee Liesl in WW II Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, rings of personal experience--with remembrances of childhood Vienna, achings at the fate of those left behind, yearnings to be a ""hep American teen,"" ultimately a glamorous movie star like also-red-haired Rita Hayworth. The worst is star-crossed young romance as usual: from Liesl's fifthgrade crush on tough seventh-grader Billy Laramie, who also has a secret sorrow and ""rage"" (his mother committed suicide, his father upped and enlisted, his stepmother sleeps around), to their fervent attachment when she blossoms into 13-year-old Lisa. The two elements have almost no common ground--Liesl/Lisa's loving parents aren't even aware of her feeling for neighborhood-disgrace Billy--and her final decision not to run away with him, in the middle of George Washington Bridge, is vintage-H'wood hokum. But Tamar provides wry, touch-true details of Austrian refugee life: the women's faith in Viennese-pastry-making as a universal livelihood; the Viennese doctors' long-winded, all-contingency replies to short-answer questions on US qualifying exams. (When Liesl's father passes, after her mother has sold off the family treasures, and then almost loses his first patient by taking a walk, the book has its tensest moment.) Tamar also gives a full-blown portrait of the movie-star cult--from the perspective, in addition, of real acting: Lisa, in a professional drama class, realizes that she hasn't much talent, doesn't want to work that hard, probably does want to be what her teacher calls a ""personality."" With this sub-motif for extra interest, there are lots of reasons the book might be read: some good, some not so good.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Lippincott