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 In time for Switzerland's 700th anniversary, Swiss novelist Walter's first appearance in English journeys into a family and a country's past to uncover a devastating truth in each. When historian Thom Winter, on his way south in 1982 with German girlfriend Lis, stops in at the old Winter home in Jammers to visit now-alcoholic sister Gret, he finds he can't leave--at least not yet. Lis goes on alone while Thom tries to find out the truth of a diary entry that claims that his mother was murdered in 1961. As he searches for explanations, Thom recalls his fear-ridden childhood, his family's history, its rise to prominence, and its current decline. Thom remembers, too, how his father, like many other Swiss businessmen, had sympathized with Nazi ideals, as well as carried on lucrative business with Germany during the war. This behavior not only alienated Thom's mother, a woman of piety and high principles, but provides a convenient link to the other purpose of the novel--a revisionist look at Swiss policy during WW II, for Thom has also been busy investigating documents that suggest Swiss leaders violated the country's long-held policy of neutrality. Memories and conversations with family and servants finally lead Thom to the unpalatable truth both about his mother's death and his country's history. An intriguing double-plot, with satisfying substance and vivid characters--though Thom himself is a bit sappy, and the leisurely pace, plus the abundance of material and ideas, tends to undercut the underlying dramatic premises. An interesting if flawed debut.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-88064-129-0
Page count: 580pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991