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LA Times: "One of the most immediate portraits of postwar life ever written."

Date: Apr 17 2011

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By Susan Salter Reynolds

April 17, 2011

 

My Berlin Child

By Anne Wiazemsky

Translated from the French by Alison Anderson

Europa Editions: 193 pp., $15 paper

 

One great benefit of fiction (for a writer especially, but also for the reader) is the opportunity to imagine the lives of our forebears, to inhabit them for a while. My Berlin Child is based on the life of Anne Wiazemsky's mother, Claire, who worked as an ambulance driver in the south of France in World War II. This work gave Claire a sense of usefulness, a purpose. She does not want to return home to Paris when the war ends and goes to Berlin to work for the Red Cross. Wiazemsky weaves journal entries, letters and vivid storytelling to create one of the most immediate portraits of postwar life ever written. Identity, amid the refugees and flux, stretches over generations; Claire looks at photographs of her youth and barely recognizes the pretty young woman who looks back at her. Her daughter, the author, saw her own life somewhere in those photographs and letters. It is this recognition that gives the novel its vivacity and courage.