War Story is a novel that has already caused heated pre-publication debate here and abroad, where rights have been sold to leading literary publishers in six countries.
What is never in dispute, though, is Gwen Edelman's power as a writer: in stark, spare language, she has created an unforgettable and passionate love affair that raises questions about morality and identity, memory and character. Is the troubled moral fiber of Joseph his human nature, or did he become who he is out of necessity, to survive the horrific circumstances placed on a Jewish boy growing up in Europe during the war?
Reminiscent of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, War Story is about the relationship between a once-famous postwar playwright and a young aspiring writer who meet in a secondhand bookstore in New York City, and begin a love affair that takes the reader from Vienna to Amsterdam, to Palestine, Paris, and New York. Told from the perspective of Kitty during a train ride from Paris to her former lover's funeral in Amsterdam years later, it is a story of how love and sexual relationships can form our identities, nurture us, as well as harm us. As indelible as it is controversial, War Story is the stunning debut of an extraordinary talent.
Out the train window lie the endless fields of northern France, fallow, the spiky stubble dusted with frost. Everything is tinged with white, even the flat wintry sky and the pale face of the moon which rushes headlong through the white sky although it is only noon. How is it, wonders Kitty, peering out, that the moon keeps pace with them, always just above them, moving, moving as the train speeds through the frozen countryside. Chilly air seeps in beneath the window and Kitty pulls up the collar of her coat. Every so often they pass a small village, a cluster of houses and the sharp narrow steeple of an old church. The country makes me nervous, Joseph used to say. One night with the darkness and the baying of hounds and Im ready to pack up and leave right away. You find little villages charming? Good. You can have them. Kitty hasnt seen him in ten years. Now she never will. Far away on a country lane a figure in high boots appears for a moment and fades...
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The year is 1949 and Nora, a prickly, strong-willed survivor of the Holocaust, has just walked off the boat in Israel with her German daughter-in-law, Louisa. Superb...a seamless interweaving of observation, memory, and imagination...A mature and absorbing story...
Evokes wartime lives and places with astonishing immediacy and in an utterly unforgettable way, from the point of view of a young Jewish girl and a boy who struggles with his place in the Hitler Youth.
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