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Reviews of The Postcard by Anne Berest

The Postcard

by Anne Berest

The Postcard by Anne Berest X
The Postcard by Anne Berest
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2023, 464 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2024, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Danielle McClellan
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About this Book

Book Summary

Anne Berest's The Postcard is among the most acclaimed and beloved French novels of recent years. Luminous and gripping to the very last page, it is an enthralling investigation into family secrets, a poignant tale of mothers and daughters, and a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life.

January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest's maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz.

Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga of a family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling that shatters long-held certainties about Anne's family, her country, and herself.

Chapter One

My mother lit her first lung-charring cigarette of the morning, the one she enjoyed most, and stepped outside to admire the whiteness blanketing the entire neighborhood. At least ten centimeters of snow had fallen overnight.

She stayed outside smoking for a long time despite the cold, enjoying the otherworldly atmosphere of the garden. It was beautiful, she thought, all that blankness, that erasing of colors and blurring of edges.

Suddenly she heard a noise, muffled by the snow. The postman had just dumped the mail on the ground at the foot of the mailbox. My mother went to collect it, putting her slippered feet down carefully so as not to slip.

Cigarette still clamped between her lips, its smoke dissipating in the freezing air, she made her way quickly back to the house to thaw fingers numbed by the cold.

She flipped through the stack of envelopes. There were the usual holiday cards, most of them from her university students, a gas bill, a few pieces of junk mail. There ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. French authors popularized what is known in the United States as autofiction, authors such as Amélie Nothomb, Emmanuel Carrère, Annie Ernaux, and now Anne Berest. The Postcard is largely true, yet it is still classified as a novel. Where do you think fact and family history end, and fiction begins in this book? How is it different from what readers typically expect from a memoir?
  2. Book 1 of The Postcard focuses largely on the lives of the Rabinovitch family before internment. As readers, we know what is coming, but Berest allows us to build relationships with these characters before tragedy strikes. How did thinking of these characters not just victims of unspeakable tragedy but as individuals who love, create art, write, and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The novel is at once a closely depicted, meticulous account of the lives of the Rabinovitch family and the ways in which their terrible fate has resonated in the lives of their descendants; a fascinating, true-life mystery involving detectives and handwriting analyst; and a powerful account of the occupation of France and the unfurling, systemic reinforcement of antisemitism through the Vichy government's administrative practices...continued

Full Review Members Only (533 words)

(Reviewed by Danielle McClellan).

Media Reviews

La Croix (France)
Wonderfully constructed, sweeping…As addictive as it is transformative.

Vogue, A Most Ancitipated Book of 2023
Undeniably compelling...A testament to the power of imagination and an investigation of empathy.

ELLE Magazine
Intimate, profound, essential.

Le Point (France)
Combines the excitement of a thriller with the emotional power of a requiem…A moving, extraordinary book.

Madame Figaro
Both personal and universal, timely and eternal…Magnificent.

Paris Match (France)
Absolutely captivating.

Library Journal (starred review)
Not only a significant contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust but a moving reflection on loss, memory, and the past, in equal measures heartwarming and heartrending. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Phenomenal...powerful...brilliant.

Booklist
In this sweeping family saga, Berest illuminates opportunities for kindness and betrayal in wartime France and the long echo of the Holocaust's atrocities...will appeal to fans of All the Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief.

Kirkus Reviews
The story overall is poignant, tense, restless, and ultimately pivotal, as Anne not only solves her mystery, but, more importantly, gains her identity...The anguish and horror of genocide arrive with fresh impact in an absorbing personal account.

Reader Reviews

Marie

A Mystery Within A Family History
This book is about real people living in a very dangerous and frightening time and place. It includes a mystery but the book does not dwell on a solution; rather a solution naturally evolves. The writing feels immediate and personal.
Roberta

A powerful Holocaust story
I have a profound respect for this author who took on researching her family’s Holocaust story. There are so many books written about the Holocaust, but when the story is about a family or just one or two people, it becomes so much more powerful and ...   Read More
Sophie Angela

The post card
It's a very nice and incredible story and it's educational
Jesse Shadrack

Postcard
Well, this book gets interesting the more you read, I've just loved it, and I hope everyone who get to the library reads it.

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Beyond the Book

Crossing the Pyrenees

Mont Valier In The Postcard, Jeanine Picabia, the author's grand-aunt, is a leader in the French Resistance movement. When she is betrayed, she becomes "one of the most wanted female fugitives in France." In December 1942, she flees to England by way of Spain, which she enters by crossing over the Pyrenees mountains. She takes a particularly challenging route, via Mont Valier, because "German soldiers won't go that way…it's too dangerous."

The Pyrenees mountain range is Europe's second major range, after the Alps. It runs over 265 miles (430 km) between Spain and France, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and separates the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) from the rest of Europe. The range is ...

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Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

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