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A Fifty-Year Silence Summary and Reviews

A Fifty-Year Silence

Love, War, and a Ruined House in France

by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

A Fifty-Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot X
A Fifty-Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2015
    288 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author's grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. Aside from one brief encounter, the two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.

A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife's name aloud after she left him.  To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents.  As she reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory.  She also finds herself learning how not only to survive but to thrive – making a home in the village and falling in love.

With warmth, humor, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents' outsize characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Charming, understated… A wonderful evocation of the way that the Holocaust has haunted many generations." – Publishers Weekly

"A moving family history researched with dedication and completed with a granddaughter's love." - Kirkus

"As Mouillot upends her own life to investigate [her grandparents'], she begins to understand the lengths to which people will go to protect their fragile dignity and comes to recognize the power of memories that both comfort and torment wounded souls. A vibrant, earnest, and profound tribute." - Booklist

"The corrosive effects of the Holocaust—upon those directly involved and generations thereafter—are illustrated vividly in this candid saga of familial love and misunderstanding, which will resonate with readers of World War II history as well as those who appreciate accounts of ancestral sleuthing in the vein of Anne Sinclair's My Grandfather's Gallery: A Family Memoir of Art and War and Sarah Wildman's Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind." - Library Journal

"The extraordinary quality of the prose, the elegance of the storytelling, and the genius with which Miranda Richmond Mouillot has laid down the twists and turns make this a book to treasure. It is a memoir that sings to us all." – Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House

"A Fifty-Year Silence is an existential detective story, a family chronicle, a journey of self-discovery, a meditation on memory, a reckoning with ghosts of a tragic past – and, miraculously, this luminous book succeeds on all levels." – Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

"Richmond Mouillot's voice – shaped by stories yet resisting any single story – does the profound work of using imagination, place, love, and art to transform the unknowable past into a rooted, liberating spring of identity." – Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden

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Author Information

Miranda Richmond Mouillot Author Biography

Miranda Richmond Mouillot is a writer and translator and the author of A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France. She won a PEN/Heim Translation Award for her translation of Romain Gary's The Kites.

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