DOORS TO MADAME MARIE by Odette Meyers

DOORS TO MADAME MARIE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The episodic and deeply conflicted memories of a Jewish woman's childhood in France during WW II. Meyers, a poet now residing in the US, was born in Paris in the mid-1930s to poor immigrants from Poland. Although she was raised in a home with little Jewish content--her parents were both secular nonbelievers--when the Germans marched on Paris she became aware of her Jewishness in a starkly painful manner. She was forced to wear a yellow star on her coat, harassed by German soldiers, abused by her former playmates, and denied access to stores and public parks. When the Germans began rounding up and deporting French Jews, Meyers was saved by the family's Catholic landlady, who helped the girl escape to the French countryside, where she remained until after the liberation of Paris. (Her parents survived the war, her mother as a member of the Resistance, her father as a French Army prisoner of war.) Although Meyers never faces the issue directly, this memoir is largely an accounting of her profound religious conflicts. While her exposure to Judaism was limited and mostly unpleasant, she saw Catholicism--in the form of her courageous landlady, Madame Marie, and in her experience of posing as a Catholic during her years in the countryside--as her salvation. In fact, she felt this literally for a time, and worried that pretending to be Catholic would not be enough to insure her a place in Paradise. Later, Meyers held a secret correspondence with a Catholic priest and entertained dreams of becoming a nun, although she gave up that idea when her parents discovered her letters and berated her for forgetting her roots. While Meyers doesn't acknowledge it, the problem seems to be that she never had any roots to begin with. Meyers's failure to confront her ambivalence about religion directly makes her story feel incomplete.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-295-97576-8
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Univ. of Washington
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997




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