Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot. One hundred years after his death, his grandnephew has crafted a memoir loosely modeled after one of the elder’s books. While the elder Schwartz’s stories focused mostly on “high-society women of the Victorian period,” his grandnephew, a native of Holland, isn’t as picky. Readers are introduced to various women, most of whom—with the rare exception of his grandmother Lady D and actress Audrey Hepburn, a distant family relative—were the objects of the author’s amorous attentions. A steady parade of women—Ann the Beautiful, Tisja the Village Beauty, Irene Femme Fatale, Ingrid the Magnificent Viking, etc.—marches across the pages. Schwartz, who was 9 when World War II ended, captures a slice of upper-crust life with his depictions of elaborate breakfasts at his grandparents’ home in rural Holland, complete with silver breadbaskets. Glimpses of old Europe—including pinewood lodges and ski resorts—are also lovingly rendered. However, with the exception of Irene Femme Fatale, the “some women” of the title are more fuzzily drawn. Primarily painted as love interests, they remain underdeveloped. Readers might see the author as rather one-dimensional as he develops serial crushes on one woman after another, often desperate to bed and/or marry each one. When posted in Burundi, he was taken in by a Tutsi woman and went to extraordinary lengths to give her a new life in France. Notwithstanding the exoticism of Nyira, whom he labels as the Tutsi Queen, readers may wonder about the motivations for his seemingly impulsive actions. The account stops short of detailing how the author eventually met and married his wife—an episode that might have added a different perspective and additional color.
A wistful but spotty memoir.