FAREWELL, AUNT ISABELL by Ilse-Margret Vogel


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Everything looks so pretty,"" says Erika, and twin sister Ilse answers, ""Yes, and peaceful too. Nobody passing could tell what an unhappy house and garden this is right now."" This comes toward the end as a feverish Aunt Isabell is being carried off to the hospital. It's also the reaction one has to all of Vogel's quiet, cross-hatched pictures, which complement this out-of-the-way story about two little girls of several decades ago, whose pleasant, middle-class European (German?) household is disturbed by Aunt Isabell's arrival after a year's stay at a mental hospital. Locked in her room and guarded by her mother (the girls' grandmother) and a hired nurse, Isabell understandably feels imprisoned, and she escapes whenever she can. One time the girls find her at the railroad station and she talks of taking them to Paris where, as Ilse paraphrases it later, ""people danced and kissed all night in the streets and sometimes jumped off the Eiffel Tower."" Another time Isabell is lying in the stream (the water is her ""bridegroom"") and when the girls find her she dances with them in the meadow and makes flower wreaths for their hair. Making Aunt Isabell happy is everyone's concern, and Erika and Ilse seem most able to succeed--though she frightens them on one occasion with her uncontrolled laughter and on another by attacking the girl next door. Vogel puts a sort of gentle padding around what might otherwise be a disturbing situation; and this works--in its minor-key way--because she tells it consistently from the naive viewpoint of Ilse and Erika (the sisters separated by death in My Twin Sister Erika, 1976).

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row