BETWEEN WORLDS by Susan Groag Bell


In Czechoslovakia, England and America
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 A wise and affecting memoir, remarkable for its honesty and lack of self-pity, of a life lived in interesting times by Czech- born feminist historian Bell. The daughter of Jewish parents who converted to Lutheranism in their youth, Bell describes her idyllic prewar childhood in Tropau, a provincial town in Czechoslovakia. The only child of a prominent local lawyer and his much younger, beautiful, and talented wife, Bell enjoyed a childhood rich in friendship, family associations, and love. But when Germany marched into the Sudetenland, and the rest of the world stood by, the idyll ended. Regarded as Jewish by the Nazis and penalized by the newly enacted racial laws, the family decided to emigrate. Taking advantage of the only visa available--for domestic work--Susan and her mother left for England in 1939, hoping once there to arrange a visa for her father; but the Holocaust took him away forever. In England, while her mother worked as a maid in a succession of households until the visa rules changed, Susan attended local schools, experiencing all the hardships of wartime England as well as the more usual ups and downs of adolescence. After a brief and disillusioning visit to a newly liberated Communist Czechoslovakia, Susan returned to England, where she spent two years in a hospital and on crutches recovering from TB brought on by the poor diet and living conditions of the postwar period. Marriage finally brought her to California, where, a late bloomer and nearly 40, she began a distinguished academic career as a historian. Friends, family, and associates are vividly evoked, as are the difficult times Bell lived through, but it is she herself, modest and self-deprecating, who is the real heroine of this poignant story of great loss and some gain.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-525-93314-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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