Fiction

Brookner, Anita.  Making Things Better (Vintage, 2004).

In her twenty-first novel, Brookner presents yet another exquisitely rendered portrait of a deep-thinking loner well on in years who is granted startling insights into the undercurrents that have shaped his staid life. Julius Herz has exemplified obedience, uncomplainingly sacrificing even the most modest desires to meet the needs of his inept and unhappy parents and strange older brother. The family fled Germany for London once being Jewish became a liability, and somehow they never recovered from the shock of their exile, a fate seemingly avoided by Julius' glamorous aunt and her sexy and petulant daughter, Fanny, the great unrequited love of Julius' life. Now all alone after a brief marriage to a nurse, Julius struggles to maintain his dignity under the assault of age and utter solitude. Brookner is a master at depicting the stormy inner weather of an outwardly placid life, and she has conjured a munificent consciousness in Julius, a devotee of Freud who pays careful attention to his dreams and to his responses to everything from a painting by Delacroix of Jacob struggling with the angel to the "magnificent indifference of nature." As Julius mulls over his past and experiences frissons of desire when a beautiful young woman moves in downstairs, he comes to understand that he has been beguiled more by his fantasies then by his actual life, and his arduous and compelling journey of self-discovery becomes a conduit for profound reflections on what we owe others and on how we define ourselves.  (Donna Seamon for Booklist)  

 

Brookner, Anita.  Latecomers (Vintage, 1990).

In Latecomers the author of the bestselling Hotel Du Lac extends her range to produce a glowing masterpiece about the ambiguous pleasures of friendship and domesticity. Hartmann and Fibich are "latecomers" to England, brought over as children from Nazi Germany. No two men could be more dissimilar: Hartmann is an expansive, deliberately unreflective voluptuary; Fibich, the ascetic, lives in a perpetual swoon of homesickness and terror. But as imagined by Anita Brookner, their fifty-year friendship becomes a transcendently funny and touching model for the ways in which human beings come to terms with the tragedy of living.

 


Childers, Jennifer.  Kindertransport (The Wild Rose Press, 2009).

Nurse Erika Lehmier cares for the children housed at Grafeneck Castle as though they were her own. When the SS confiscates Grafeneck, Erika discovers plans to turn the castle into a treatment center that will end the lives of children with disabilities.
Erika must find a way to escape—or face the heartbreaking decision to give them a peaceful death by her own hand.

 


Gardam, Jane.  The Flight of the Maidens (Plume, 2002).

Here is a great vacation read but it's definitely not a throwaway. Prolific English novelist Gardam, Whitbread Award winner for both The Hollow Land and Queen of the Tambourine, has crafted a story through which readers can step into 1946 England. The war is over and the world is profoundly changed, though some of the old trappings remain, reminders of a faded past. Three Yorkshire girls of considerable intelligence but modest means have earned scholarships to universities in Cambridge and London; the novel is set during the summer before their departure for university. Hetty Fallowes decides "to be ruthless and positive and in charge of [her] own soul." She rebels against her quirky parents, especially her pious mother, who married her intellectual, grave-digging father for love and now regrets it. Plucky Una Vane's mother is using her dead father's office (he was a doctor) as a beauty parlor; Una develops leftist leanings and embarks on a romance with Ray, a boy of questionable background. Lieselotte Klein is a Jewish-German refugee who came to the village as a child to live with a Quaker family. At 17, she is suddenly sent to stay with a strange, elderly Jewish couple in London and finally, briefly, with distant relatives in California. All characters, major and minor, are superbly developed and convincing. The portrait of postwar England as conventions crumble and the country is rebuilt is terrific, drawn by a writer whose attention to detail recreates, lovingly and with bright flashes of wit, another time and place. (July)Forecast: Strong reviews and favorable word-of-mouth will be crucial to help build an American readership for this fine import.

 

Segal, Lore.  Other People's Houses (Ballantine Books, 1986).

A fictionalized account of Lore Groszmann Segal's young life in Austria, England and the Dominican Republic.

 

Segal, Lore.  Shakespeare's Kitchen (New Press, 2007).

What began as seven interrelated short stories published in The New Yorker is now a full-length collection of thirteen stories featuring Austrian Kind Ilka Weisz, who accepts a position at a think tank called the Concordance Institute, and her struggle to form a new family out of friends and coworkers. Shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.

 

Thor, Annika.  A Faraway Island (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009).

n the summer of 1939 two Jewish sisters from Vienna, 12 year-old Stephie Steiner and 8 year-old Nellie, are sent to Sweden to escape the Nazis. They expect to stay there six months, until their parents can flee to Amsterdam; then all four will go to America. But as the world war intensifies, the girls remain, each with her own host family, on a rugged island off the western coast of Sweden. Children will readily empathize with Stephie's courage. Both sisters are well-drawn, likable characters. This is the first of four books Thor has written about the two girls.

 

Voorhoeve, Anne C.  Liverpool Street (Ravensburger Verlag, 2008).

Contained within the story of ten-year-old Ziska (Franziska Mangold) is a whole slice of prewar and wartime history, from Kristallnacht to Auschwitz, from the Kindertransport taking Jewish children to safety in England (hence the title ‘Liverpool Street’) to the varied fortunes of the young refugees, and from wartime sacrifices to deportations to the Isle of Man. This moving novel portrays the growing up of a young girl amongst scenes of great tragedy.

 

Watts, Irene N.  Good-Bye Marianne (Tundra Books, 1998).

As more of her city is taken over by the Nazis in 1930s Berlin, Germany, Marianne Kohn has been told that she can no longer go to school because she is Jewish. Her father is missing, and she is confused and frightened. As the culture of fear and suspicion grows, she can no longer trust anyone and is hurt when friends reject her. Then, when Marianne and her mother no longer feel safe in her own home, with no warning at all, Marianne’s mother tells her that she has made arrangements for Marianne to join the Kindertransport. Marianne and many other mostly Jewish children are being sent out of Germany to the relative safety of England. Marianne is devastated to be separated from her mother and father but she accepts that this is just another horrible event which must somehow be endured.  Recommended grade level: 3-7.