Image of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
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“This book is a breath of fresh air.”

Born A Crime is a rollicking ride of a book, an enjoyable feast of storytelling. Deservedly it is already a number one bestselling book. Combining comedy and tragedy, the book covers the dying days of apartheid in South Africa and the uncertain dawn of a new age as Nelson Mandela tries to birth a Rainbow Nation out of a horrific, nationalist, racist past.

Trevor Noah’s autobiography of his childhood and adolescence in this perilous, shifting landscape cleverly avoids polemical statements and moral platitudes. Instead he describes a resilient and opportunistic child and teenager whose intuitive street smarts lead him into a hustler’s life. The very facts of how he learns to navigate the political currents swirling around him provides vivid commentary on those challenging times for South Africa.

The book begins and ends with chapters on his mother. She is a woman of unbreakable religious faith. Sundays with Mom mean attending three different churches in three different parts of Johannesburg and environs.

Mrs. Noah is a formidable woman. She knowingly broke apartheid laws designating as a crime sexual intercourse between people of different races. Yet, she moved into a “gray” area (neither white nor black-only residences) with a man she loved, a Swiss man. Wanting a child she persuaded him to be the father.

When Trevor was born she moved back to her mother in Soweto, the sprawling black township near Johannesburg. Trevor became accustomed to clandestine visits to his father. He learned that if they were out in public he could not call him “Dad” and must walk alongside his mother but several steps behind his father. In later years his father moved to Cape Town, and they lost contact.

Trevor does not enjoy church and argues continually with his mother about her Sunday regime. But she is steadfast in her faith overcoming all obstacles an inadequate transport system throws in her way. Only when he was an older teenager and living away from home did Trevor stop going to church.

By then we have learned of his mother’s marriage to a Tsonga man, a master mechanic, Abel, and of their move to a previously “whites only” suburb where Abel houses his business. Eventually Trevor has two younger brothers, Andrew and Isaac.

Early on Trevor experiences being on the receiving end of Abel’s strength, wrath and other ravages his alcoholism bring. But this move does not only portend tragedy. Fortuitously it also provides Trevor with a shot at better schooling. He is now enrolled in previous “whites only” schools.

At junior high and high school, Trevor encounters the heartache of crushed love. He struggles to find his identity as a so-called “colored” youth, unacceptable to both the black kids at school and the white. His identity crisis also creates opportunities as he uses his entrepreneurial instincts to keep himself busy and earn some money.

“My life of crime started off small. Selling pirated CDs on the corner. That in itself was a crime, and today I feel I owe all these artists money for stealing their music, but by hood standards it didn’t even qualify as illegal. At the time it never occurred to any of us that we were doing anything wrong—if copying CDs is wrong, why would they make CD writers?”

Trevor graduates from high school and wants to study computer programming at university, but the family does not have the money to pay for his studies. Unemployment among black youth is as high as 50 percent. For the last two years of his adolescence, Trevor, living away from home, and along with friends, works the streets of seedy and dangerous Alexandria Township selling pirated CDs, DJ’ing wherever invited, and working deals for other hustlers that give him and his cronies a cut of the profit.

Inevitably, the day arrives where he is stopped by the cops and arrested for driving a stolen car. The car belongs to Abel but Trevor “borrowed” it and put on false number plates. He cannot find the registration papers. Through guile he avoids a jail sentence but after describing a week in a holding pen awaiting trail, we see fully that the new black police force is as brutal as their white predecessors.

The book ends on a poignant note. Trevor, in his twenties and working as a stand-up comic, on Sunday morning is called by one of his younger brothers and told Abel shot their mother. Her life had moved on from Abel having divorced him and married again. One Sunday in a drunken rage he sought her out and shot her. Miraculously she survives, and Noah writes movingly of how her near-death experience highlights their indestructible bond and how much having her as his mother shaped his life.

Once she is out of danger they sit on her hospital bed, “She broke into a huge smile and started laughing. Through my tears I started laughing too. I was bawling my eyes out and laughing hysterically at the same time. We sat there and she squeezed my hand and we cracked each other up the way we always did, mother and son. Laughing together through the pain in an intensive-care recovery room on a bright and sunny and beautiful day.”

This book is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully a sequel is in the works. We wonder how Trevor Noah made the leap from stand-up comic in South Africa to anchor The Daily Show as Jon Stewart’s successor in New York.


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Barkskins: A Novel by Annie Proulx

Image of Barkskins: A Novel
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“Over 300 years the forests are raped, eco-systems destroyed, wealth generated, and the insatiable international desire and greed for wood exploited.”

Annie Proulx, the author of Barkskins is an accomplished American writer. She has achieved the status of grande dame of American letters and deservedly so. An earlier book, The Shipping News, is a stellar work, one with teeth and grit, lyricism and poignancy, dark as well as magical moments. That book remains a pioneer at the frontier of American fiction, as her protagonist, Quoyle, exists in one of the first portrayals of a single father as a heroic figure through the travails and triumphs of his small, dysfunctional family.

If readers hope for more of the same in Barkskins they will be disappointed. The book is overlong, the storylines confusing, the insertion of pages and pages of albeit interesting facts about daily life in the towering, primeval forests—the utensils, the logging tools, the clothes, the traditions, rites and rituals of all the people who meet, clash, and intermingle—are shared in almost overwhelming detail, so as to slow and even disrupt the novel. It is as if Proulx insisted on using all the detail she had accumulated in her ten years of research and writing of Barkskins. At the very moment we are engrossed in one of the story lines we are dragged back to arcane documentation.

The book opens in 1693 when two indentured Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in Canada—New France—to serve as woodcutters for an eccentric feudal lord who built a grand chateau deep in the forests for his future bride (when he finds one).

Sel is forced to marry a native Mi’kmaw woman, and his progeny, through generations, vacillate between the two worlds of their generators—French frontiersmen and native Canadians or “original people.”

Duquet escapes his servitude to gain a foothold on the wealth the territory offers through fur-trapping, trading, and later enterprising forays into timber. He founds, and his descendants (later changing their last name to Duke), now timber barons, forge an international empire.

Both families’ genealogical lines are tied to trees, natural disasters, unexpected plot twists and turns—in frontier Quebec, then Michigan and hundreds of years later in the kauri forests of New Zealand.

Over 300 years the forests are raped, eco-systems destroyed, wealth generated, and the insatiable international desire and greed for wood exploited.

Overall the writing is fluid, and as would expect of Proulx her characters are exposed to states of the human condition from veniality to love. There are too many characters and episodes to cite here, but among the most intriguing is the union of Kuntaw, one of Sel’s grandsons and Beatrix Duquet, a granddaughter of Charles, and their life near the Penobscot people, river and bay in Maine. This union (although they never married) is one where descendants of the Sel and Duquet families unknowingly for many years in the second half of the eighteenth century, amalgamated their lives. They had no offspring.

Kuntaw and Beatrix meet on the muddy banks of the river:

He stood a few yards back from the horse and looked at the girl. She was elegant, wearing a black cloak edged in red. Something about her dark-ivory face said she was part Indian.

“You like to make some money?” she asked moving close. She lifted her head and inhaled his odor of smoke, meat and pine pitch.

He shrugged. “What do?”

“Split wood of course.” She enunciated very carefully. ‘You carry an ax. Do you know how to split firewood?”

He nodded. “I know.”

“I need you, Indian man. Follow.” Beatrix Duquet turned her horse and trotted gracefully toward the big house, he had to run to keep up with her. Watching her long crinkled hair sway, the bright heels of her boots, he felt a wave of enchantment strike him like warm rain. So, in his thirtieth spring, began the strangest part of his life, as he seemed to stumble out of the knotted forest and onto a shining path.

Barkskins is an epic saga but unlike many of James Michener’s epic historical sagas or others such as The Thornbirds by Australian, Colleen McCullough, or Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, to name only a few, Barkskins does not have the sweep and flow of history that keeps one reading through the night.

Perhaps the material here would be better served as eco-nonfiction, such as John McPhee’s The Control of Nature, Bill McKibbon’s The End of Nature, or Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring and influence this and successive generations to save the planet and specifically in Proulx’s case, the forests that are left on our planet before they are denuded; however, as eco-fiction it falls below Annie Proulx’s admittedly extraordinarily high standards.

Perhaps her intention all along is to write a cautionary tale about the environmental catastrophe we have already wrought.

Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go well together. —George Santayana

By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects. —Lynn White, Jr.

These epigraphs certainly suggest the reason for Annie Proulx’s book encompassing the polemical tilt toward recording so thoroughly this irreparable damage.


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“Relativity is a wonderful read . . . well written, sometimes lyrically so, well plotted and not afraid to enter some of the grittier territory of complex human relationships.”

Relativity by Antonia Hayes is a wonderful read. Hayes deserves a wide audience for this book. Relativity is Hayes debut novel, well written, sometimes lyrically so, well plotted and not afraid to enter some of the grittier territory of complex human relationships. One of Hayes’ singular achievements in this work is her non-judgmental stance and balanced voice.

For protagonists, 12-year-old Ethan, his biological father, Mark, and his single mom, Claire, sometimes explosive, sometimes tender, often hard-to-read shifting points of view have the ring of truth. Indeed they should, for as author Hayes says in interviews the novel’s impetus is largely based on autobiographical fact but the characters and evolving plot are fictional. The novel is set in Sydney Australia, Hayes’ hometown although she now lives in San Francisco.

Another character omnipresent in the novel is ideas created from theoretical physics and cosmology. Hayes’ writing of complex abstraction is masterful. By having, albeit a remarkable 12 year old articulate his understanding of these ideas, she makes them accessible to a wide audience.

A tattoo on Mark’s arm illustrates the interaction between science and this troubled family, ‘E=mc2’: Ethan equals Mark and Claire. Ethan, a brilliant and precocious boy fascinated by physics, Mark, a mysterious figure in Ethan’s life until he is 12, and Claire, a professional ballerina, who ends her performance career to care for her son.

No other spoilers in this review for that would mar your reading of this compulsive, compassionate, and intelligent novel. It grabs you from the jarring opening page and on the last page you gasp at the fitting paean of appreciation for the force of gravity and how Hayes links the implications of physics to the plot.

“Gravitation shapes our universe. Forms tides, heats planetary cores. It’s why fragments of gravitational matter clump together into planets and moons, why stars cluster into vast, rippling galaxies. Earth isn’t going to crash into the sun, the moon won’t collide with Earth—gravity keeps them safe in orbit. It always attracts and never repels; it brings the planets back.

Gravity is insistent. It firmly stands its ground. We never stop accelerating toward the center of the Earth at 9.8/s2. That curvature in the fabric of space-time is a phenomenon we experience every day, an invisible experience we all have in common.”

Light years from the rarified conceptual realm of scientific ideas, Ethan’s family is mired in hurt, excrutiating guilt, and a combination of hate and love not yet understood or clarified. Microcosmic and macrocosmic perceptions of human experience do not align—yet.

“Claire got dressed. Her head was full of contradictions, as though each hemisphere of her own brain were battling some civil war. Confusion left her with a strong desire for solitude, to be left alone with her conflicting thoughts. She felt completely disorientated, questioning her entire life. What if her heart had reshaped itself around a lie? Part of her was angry . . . another part of her utterly distraught.”

Ethan, a child on the cusp of adolescence, is the perfect vehicle through which the story unfolds. We learn at the same time he does the mysterious twists of family history, burial and reframing of tortured memories, a family constellation torn apart.

Gravity does not operate the same way in this family constellation as it does on a universal scale; the stars do not align, at least not on the surface. But at the quantum level gravity and relativity are present although to the untrained eye particles heave and bubble like chaos itself.

Hayes invites us to look deeper into the quantum level of her characters’ psyches. Our clue to this interpretation is Ethan’s pet rabbit named, Quark. As Hayes explains, quarks are elementary particles and fundamental constituents of matter. Quarks combine to form particles called hadrons, the components of atomic nuclei.

The matter that constitutes stars is the same matter firing neurons in our brains. At some level Ethan is already the space-time traveler he strives to be. After all, the title of the novel is Relativity.

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The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler’s Fight for his Mother

Image of The Astronomer and the Witch: Johannes Kepler's Fight for his Mother
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“Rublack creates an astute and informative study of witchcraft and witch trials.”

The Astronomer and The Witch by Ulinka Rublack at first glance may appear to be a book for history scholars. After all, the author is a well-regarded University of Cambridge don and has written several other academic books. But this book holds many surprises.

Far from dry academic discourse, it is a scintillating read, presenting a fascinating depiction of Johannes Kepler’s 17th century world, a time in Europe of great discoveries and intellectual ferment. Kepler, with his astronomical theses and philosophical canniness, was a well-known intellectual leader with a great many followers. In fact he is one of our most famous scientists.

“Fired by his fascination with cosmic constellations, Kepler, in 1606, published his treatise, De Stella Nova. It reflected on a recent supernova, which he regarded as a new star. The star’s significance lay in the fact that it had appeared close to the conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the sign of Sagittarius. Kepler enthusiastically presented the age he lived in as positively influenced by this very special planetary conjunction. The universe beyond the Moon and planets was mutable. Unlike automatic clocks, which he admired for their enactment of regularity but criticized for their inability to reflect change, God’s world could thus be dynamic, surprising illuminating and varied, if people kept on positively responding to the possibilities of their time.”

You may justifiably ask how such a forward thinking and progressive man could also believe in witchcraft. As Rublack explains, Kepler believed all humans were “tiny specks of dust” who carried God’s image inside them and continued the work of divine creation.

In this worldview those who questioned Christendom were agents of demons and summarily victimized. Witches were the most unsavory manifestations of Satanic influence to undermine God’s divine creation.

Against this background, Rublack creates an astute and informative study of witchcraft and witch trials. Rublack’s meticulous scholarship immerses us into Kepler’s social and cultural milieu. In telling Kepler’s story—his six-year defense of his mother, Katharina Kepler, at her witchcraft trial—Rublack’s prose engrosses with intimate portrayals of village life, family life, prevailing beliefs, and local governance and legal practices. We learn why witchcraft was part of the 17th century mindset and why people feared witches so fiercely. For these people witchcraft was a fact of life.

For decades, Kepler and his mother had a vexed relationship arising from their conflicting personalities. Yet, without question, and despite all his many academic and other commitments, he came to her defense when she was accused of witchcraft and threatened with imprisonment or death. For six years he prevailed upon his connections in high society and government to gain support for his defense. In 1621 he appeared at her final trial.

“Despite Kepler’s attempt in public to present himself as civilized man of reason, he once more struggled to control his fury about Katharina’s criminal trial. Kepler knew he had to convince the Tübingen professors of law that, above all, his family had become victims of failed governance. . . . Kepler developed an implicit analogy between Leonberg’s governor as the ‘moon’ and Duke John Frederick and his ducal council as ‘the sun.’ As the moon had constantly become smaller, it had begun to reflect the sun’s rays only weakly and then completely disappeared. Finally it had covered the sun with darkness to fully eclipse good government.”

Rublack asserts that Kepler was right: Most Württemberg witchcraft trials and the majority of those that ended in a death sentence were prosecuted during John Frederick’s reign (1608–1628), which suggests that he insufficiently controlled his governors. “Ultimately Katharina was unlocked from her iron chain and set free . . . after fourteen months of incarceration under the severest of conditions.”

In the book’s epilogue, Rublack travels to Eltingen, the village in which Katharina was born, and begins her research by reading original trial papers. She also delves into the Third Reich’s fascination with this period in Germany’s history.

The final chapter is the crown to Rublack’s previous achievements in The Astronomer and The Witch. Here she offers an excellent and satisfactory summation of her findings and thoughts.


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51LoQ8vCg9L-199x300Reviewer: Janet Levine

“The novel is a quick, compulsive read but leaves much untold; however, this is fiction and not comprehensive biography.”

Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman is fictional autobiography (told almost exclusively in an imagined first-person narrative voice) of 20th century feminist icon and birth control advocate and activist American, Margaret Sanger.

But is this the autobiography Margaret Sanger would have written if she had chosen to do so toward the end of her life?

The title stems from a Margaret Sanger quote from 1914: “It is only rebel woman, when she gets out of the habits imposed on her by bourgeois convention, who can do some deed of terrible virtue.” She adds: “A woman’s duty: To look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in her eyes, to have an ideal, to speak and act in defiance of convention.”

With these words, Sanger, as Feldman notes, found her mission.

What is also “terrible” in this novel perhaps is the toll Sanger’s lifelong activism imposed on her two husbands, three children and many lovers. Among other questions, Sanger’s crusading raises the dilemma of whether activists living for a cause, can also be married or even raise children. Of course the “virtue” resides in the remarkable effectiveness of the activism Sanger espoused.

The novel takes the reader of a fascinating and compelling gallop through the surface of Sanger’s life as imagined by Feldman. The novel is a quick, compulsive read but leaves much untold; however, this is fiction and not comprehensive biography. Yet the novel does range over the highlights of Sanger’s life from a small town in upstate New York to a final home in Tucson, Arizona.

Sanger was born into poverty, a daughter of an alcoholic free thinker and town renegade and a haggard mother always exhausted by the bearing of and caring for 13 children. Due to the sacrifice of two older and devoted sisters Sanger was able to train as a nurse. Early on she championed several social justice causes, mingling with, learning from, and working with other progressives.

Ultimately she brought her leadership skills, powerful personality, and idealism (abetted by constant awareness of her mother’s childbearing suffering that caused her untimely death) into legalizing contraception. This struggle consumed her life and led often to violent conflict with puritanical, patronizing lawmakers, sentenced her several times to prison, and left her little option to further her work but to seek asylum in Edwardian England.

Sanger’s narrative is interrupted by short accounts from her children, husbands, sisters, and lovers that counterbalance and often confute Sanger’s telling of her life in which she gives short shrift to the great cost she exacted from those she loved and who loved her. Another fascinating element of the novel is the vignette appearances of the likes of Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, and other luminaries of progressive movements in the early to mid-20th century.

Among many other pioneering ventures, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in America in 1916 (illegal), founded Planned Parenthood in 1952, and in 1960 heralded Congress’s legal protection of “the Pill.”

This is a timely book. Since 2010 hundreds of new laws chip away at women’s choice, access to contraception, sexual education, and abortion—all passed by conservative lawmakers. Women’s rights are assailed today by the same puritanical zeitgeist that railed against Margaret Sanger in 1916. Sadly, Sanger’s work is not yet completely done.


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Image of Innocents and Others: A Novel
 Reviewed by:

“In the novel the protagonists are filmmakers, women who know how to create illusions through a camera lens and peddle them as reality. Spiotti, perhaps, questions if fiction works the same way.”

The author of Innocents and Others, Dana Spiotta is acclaimed as one of the best of our new generation of American fiction writers. Her previous works, including her debut novel Lightning Field (2001), as well as several other works, have cemented her reputation, and she has garnered ballooning critical attention.

In Innocence and Others, while displaying her formidable literary talent, Spiotta launches readers into a brave new world that pushes postmodern fiction into (possibly) a post postmodern cul-de-sac. Ambition is to be praised, but unfortunately in this novel Spiotta overreaches. Readers are left bewildered by and often frustrated with this challenging read.

The novel’s structure is disjointed. Spiotta experiments with structure (a legitimate exercise for contemporary writers) and timelines that leave us with a mishmash of images, ideas, events, and voices. The writing is often brilliant and gripping (but not consistently so), and the film research impeccable. What we have then is a montage and not a well-wrought novel. If you are interested in arcane information of non-mainstream movie making and movies in general, this book is for you.

Innocents and Others centers on two best friends growing up in L.A. in the 80s who become filmmakers. Meadow makes art films and Carrie commercially successful movies. In sporadic leaps, the novel follows their lives as each struggles for identity and a meaningful sense of self. Carrie and Meadow tussle with the meaning and morality of love, friendship, and what is truth.

Ultimately this is a novel about facets of truth.

Through the ubiquitous technology that renders contemporary reality—cell phones, computers, DVD players, so on, and the social media claptrap they enable that abets the frittering of our lives—Spiotta explores “truth” surrounding privacy issues, the scruples of using these devices to expose others’ lives, and the effect on many users of isolation and loneliness.

Other women appear in the novel like Jelly, a loner whose most intimate experience is on the phone. She cold calls men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. Or Sarah, an imprisoned drug addict convicted of causing the arson-related death of her daughter. Meadow wants to film her because she believes Sarah was wrongly convicted. But the initial recording session ends abruptly when Meadow realizes that her subject has no grip on reality, and is actually using her.

Questioning reality is one key to unlock the novel. As Carrie writes in an essay on Meadow, “Meadow was creating what she called a fabule, a wish-story about herself, half dream and half fact. . . . Meadow is playful and she tells her own truth in her own way, you just have to yield to her version of the world to see how it all fits together, surrender to her possibilities.”

The same can be said of Spiotta and this novel. Here Spiotti is a fabulist, she tells her truth in her own way, the novel itself is a “fabule.” Throughout the novel, in many scenes we believe that the narrator is speaking the truth, examining her reality, only to learn that it is all fabrication. (An example is Meadow’s love affair with Orson Welles.)

Meadow once said about being an artist “It is partly a confidence game. And partly magic. But to make something you also need a gleaner. What is a gleaner? Well, it is a nice word for a thief, except you take what no one wants. Not just unusual ideas or things. You look closely at the familiar to discover what everyone else overlooks or ignores or discards.”

A central motif in the novel explores the concept of how art imitates life in our noisy, jarring, technologically overloaded “reality.” We live amid sound bites and instant replays and Photoshopping. With a smart phone everyone is a filmmaker creating a variety of virulent realities.

In the novel the protagonists are professional filmmakers, women who know how to create illusions through a camera lens and peddle them as reality. Spiotti, perhaps, questions if fiction works the same way. Black marks on a white page or handheld reading device become an escapist reality as the neurons fire in our brains to link those black marks into an associative mélange of language, memory, and imagination. Something to ponder.


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Image of More Was Lost: A Memoir (New York Review of Books Classics)
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More Was Lost is a memoir of two parts; the first reads like a fairy tale and the second like a nightmare.”

More Was Lost is the reissue of a 1946 memoir by Eleanor Perényi, a well known New York figure in literary circles. She was an editor of Harper’s Bazaar and later Mademoiselle. Her early books received critical acclaim, but she garnered her largest following with Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden published in 1980. It is considered a classic of garden writing. Much of the appealing detail of working the soil evident in Green Thoughts is also evident in the early part of this memoir.

Perényi, the daughter of a naval officer, and a novelist, at nineteen traveled with her parents to Europe and at a diplomatic party in Budapest met Zsigmond (Zsiga) Perényi, a young Hungarian baron, whom she married shortly thereafter in 1937. She moved with him to his family’s ruined estate in Ruthenia, then under Czech rule. They set about restoring the 750-acre farm and vineyard as well as the castle to working order.

On arrival Perényi is shown the gardens. “After lunch, Zsiga showed me the park. Under the drawing room windows was a rose garden, with a pavilion in the middle covered with rambler roses. At the back of the house the twisted limbs of three catalpa trees, nearly three hundred years old, reached past the windows of the main hall and beyond the roof. And along the edge of the lawn ran a line of old-fashioned standard rose trees. A big parterre elaborately planted was behind the rose trees.”

Beyond the house garden a neglected formal garden, then, alleys with thickly planted trees, fields, a vineyard, a view to Rumania, and in the west to Yugoslavia. There was even a solitary mountain on the estate and two large rivers passing through.

Perényi shares anecdotes of living and working on the estate within a defunct—almost feudal system—centuries old, amid visits from family and friends and entertaining them with all the frayed trappings of a dying way of life.

Throughout the book Perényi writes in a frank, clear, and almost casual manner inviting readers to share her delight in small triumphs on the estate and both her and her husband’s felicitous delight in their marriage. However, one cannot be unaware (especially as Perényi is writing from an American perspective) that beyond the friendly storytelling (and maybe inadvertently) she chronicles the imminent collapse of an anachronistic social order, as ancient and hate filled nationalistic rivalries inevitably spawn disruptive and terrible disorder that will tear apart the Old World.

When, several short years after her marriage, the war unfolds, Perényi, pregnant, is persuaded to return to New York. But not before she experiences some of the horror, deprivation, misery, and uncertainty the encroaching turmoil evinces on her estate and marriage. The separation splits the couple apart, destroying the marriage. Once again, in this section, Perényi writes in gracious, if emotionally distressing detail, about her heartbreak and the loss of her Rutherian home and now devastated way of life.

“I’ll come back,” I said. “I’ll have this baby in America, where the hospitals are good. It will have the best care, and then if nothing has happened I’ll come back. If America isn’t in the war, I’ll come back. I promise.

“Zsiga believed me, as I believed myself. I couldn’t see all the thousand things that would prevent it in the end, any more than I could see the child.” As she departs Laci, a Hungarian cousin, “…kept saying, infuriatingly, ‘The poor Baron.’ I felt I almost hated him for it. It was so close to what I felt myself.”…

“So it is that one passes insensibly from one part of life to another, from the past into the future.”

More Was Lost is a memoir of two parts; the first reads like a fairy tale and the second like a nightmare. Perényi’s coherently reassuring voice is simultaneously engrossing and intimate. Her memoir ranges from delightful detail to thought-provoking reflection. And all through the book her readers are aware of a sense of the historical relevance of her observations.

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