THE VISION OF EMMA BLAU by Ursula Hegi

THE VISION OF EMMA BLAU

KIRKUS REVIEW

Companion novel to Hegi’s Oprah-anointed Stones from the River (1994, etc.): an ambitious, multigenerational story about identity, fate, and the dark side of seemingly benign visions that dutifully plods through the years, detailing as it goes along the schematic lives of the Blau family held hostage to the Wasserburg, a once grand apartment building. Thirteen-year-old Stefan Blau runs away from Germany in 1894 and winds up in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. There, he opens a restaurant and dreams of building a splendid apartment house on the lake shore (Wasserburg means —water fortress—). The place is built, but Stefan’s first and second wives die in childbirth, leaving him visionary Greta and moody Tobias to rear. Stefan decides to send for his old friend Helene; she will be wife number three and raise his children, though he is determined to have no more. Angered by being used, Helene tricks Stefan into impregnating her and thereby produces Robert. By the 1950s, the Wasserburg is famous for its splendor, filled with a colorful assortment of people as well as Blau family members, and seemingly destined to last forever. But of course it won’t and, for plot purposes, can’t. From childhood on, Emma Blau, Robert’s daughter, has felt she was —the center of the house,” holding it together—an impression that leads her to deceive her family, defraud her brother, have a futile affair, and bear an illegitimate son while she struggles to save the building from its inevitable ruin as money runs out and the structure deteriorates. She (unconvincingly) comes to her senses on the last page of a dull, lifeless tale whose characters are as much in thrall to the plot as the Blaus are to the Wasserburg. Hegi seems to be going through the motions here, aspiring to profundity no doubt but achieving only a tired gothic reprise of hubris and folly.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-82997-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999




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