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A chronicle of one ÇmigrÇ Polish aristocrat's return to her family's abandoned estate is transformed by an award-winning British writer into an evocative narrative complete with two remarkable heroines and two world wars. That poet Zofia Ilinska had a colorful and mysterious past was apparent early on to Marsden, who as a boy summered in the Cornish village where Ilinska lived. Yet nothing quite prepared him for the drama, pain, and courage that were revealed to him when he accompanied his old friend on a journey to her ancestral homes in and around the city of Vilnius, in Poland's former eastern borderlands. Marsden's English voice, with its combination of curiosity and distance, drives and shapes this fascinating tale of Ilinska and her mother, Helena, and their vanished, rarefied world of Poland's landed aristocracy. Helena, who witnessed both world wars and the start of the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg, is a woman of courage, charm, and innocence who inspires in the reader a combination of awe and pity. Working from her papers and diaries, Marsden vividly captures the spirit of Helena and the customs, mores, and prejudices of her society and family. By going back a generation, he provides Ilinska's own remarkable story of love and misfortune with added depth and perspective, highlighting the ``patterns of loss'' that plagued mother, daughter, and Poland, whether caught between lovers or armies. During her journey home, Ilinska finds her family's estate in ruins and the family graves looted. Her response is pragmatic. She restores the family chapel, declaring that it is for the locals, both Orthodox and Catholic, to use. With this act she brings a sense of closure to her own past while infusing hope into historic local, national, and religious tensions that surrounded her family's private world. A fascinating and dramatic tale of love and loss on both a personal and national scale.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55970-392-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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