Cynthia Ozick is an American master at the height of her powers in Heir to the Glimmering World, a grand romantic novel of desire, fame, fanaticism, and unimaginable reversals of fortune. Ozick takes us to the outskirts of the Bronx in the 1930s, as New York fills with Europe's ousted dreamers, turned overnight into refugees. Rose Meadows unknowingly enters this world when she answers an ambiguous want ad for an "assistant" to a Herr Mitwisser, the patriarch of a large, chaotic household. Rosie, orphaned at eighteen, has been living with her distant relative Bertram, who sparks her first erotic desires. But just as he begins to return her affection, his lover, a radical socialist named Ninel (Lenin spelled backward), turns her out. And so Rosie takes refuge from love among refugees of world upheaval.
Cast out from Berlin's elite, the Mitwissers live at the whim of a mysterious benefactor, James A'Bair. Professor Mitwisser is a terrifying figure, obsessed with his arcane research. His distraught wife, Elsa, once a prominent physicist, is becoming unhinged. Their willful sixteen-year-old daughter runs the household: the exquisite, enigmatic Anneliese. Rosie's place here is uncertain, and she finds her fate hanging on the arrival of James. Inspired by the real Christopher Robin, James is the Bear Boy, the son of a famous children's author who recreated James as the fanciful subject of his books. Also a kind of refugee, James runs from his own fame, a boy adored by the world but grown into a bitter man. It is Anneliese's fierce longing that draws James back to this troubled house, and it is Rosie who must help them all resist James's reckless orbit. Ozick lovingly evokes these perpetual outsiders thrown together by surprising chance. The hard times they inherit still hold glimmers of past hopes and future dreams. Heir to the Glimmering World is a generous delight.
The New York Times - John Leonard
In her typically audacious new novel, Heir to the Glimmering World, Cynthia Ozick braids at least three and probably four ghostly glimmers and ''phantom eels'' of thought into a single luminous lariat -- or maybe a hangman's noose.
The Washington Post - James Sallis
Valéry said that a work of art should always teach us that we have not seen what we see. That is a part of what young Rose Meadows comes to know as she emerges from the Mitwissers' life into her own. Living as we all do among unwise folk, nonetheless she also has lived for a time, and lived vividly, in a wise, quietly magical book. As have we readers.
Library Journal - Starr E. Smith
Though known mainly for short stories distinguished by graceful language, Ozick here demonstrates her facility as a novelist, successfully mixing themes of faith, identity, and art into a crazy salad of a plot set in New York City during the Great Depression....This witty book will appeal to admirers of the fanciful tales in Ozick's Puttermesser Papers and to readers seeking well-written novels with intellectual depth. Recommended for most collections.
The Wall Street Journal - Merle Rubin
In language aglow with fierce wit and passionate intensity. . .[Ozick's book] has all the hallmarks of a permanent work of literature.
Newsday - James Marcus
A novel as scintillating as this one makes the world infinitely new.
Erudite exposition is packed into the book, so that character study and discourse occasionally grind the plot to a halt. Edifying and evocative, if often daunting, this is a concentrated slice of eccentric life.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Ozick brilliantly dramatizes the conflict between theology and science, various modes of mythmaking and survival, and the hot drive to dissent, to subvert, to fly from what all men accept!
Starred Review. Perhaps the fullest treatment yet of the European intellectual's flight from Hitler's Germany...one of Ozick's most interesting [works].
An irresistible read. A trove of wonderfully imagined characters, brilliantly written - a dazzling performance.
A cause for celebration in the world of literature. Here we have a heroine to love, a story we can't let go of, gorgeous sentences, and ideas to wrestle with. I didn't just read this book, I devoured it.
Cynthia Ozick was born in Manhattan and has lived in the New York City area most
of her life. She is acclaimed for her many works of fiction and criticism
including The Puttermesser Papers and Quarrel & Quandary.
Related Link: In an
at BookBrowse, Ozick says that the character of James A'Bair was
inspired by (but not modeled on) Christopher Milne, son of A.A. Milne.
Christopher Milne spent much of his life trying to escape his father's
shadow and the legacy of being forever seen as the little boy,
Christopher Robin. For a biography of Christopher Milne see:
Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class. At its center this is a profoundand profoundly movingexploration of shame, forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
Embodies the universal human search for identity, the struggle to impose coherence on memory, a struggle complicated by the minds defenses against trauma.
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