I have to thank Curly for this one because it was on her reading list. Which proves that more bloggers (that I read) should write about books they’ve read because I’m likely to pick up their recommendations instead of simply scouring the library shelves for Sophie Kinsella write-alikes.
Anyway, this is a whimsical read and feels like it’s set in the 50s (which is not a bad thing) though actually it’s fairly current. Maybe it’s the time travel or maybe I’m superimposing from the Benjamin Button film. Because it’s so easy to conflate the two. Having read the summary of the Fitzgerald book the film was ostensibly modelled on, I see more similarities between this book (the Time Traveller one) and the Button film. Mainly, in mood and the playing with time, albeit in different modes. And in Cate Blanchett who is exactly how I imagine Clare in the novel. I have to admit the specificities of the time travel, and why none of the travel to times and places unconnected to his own life made an appearance though they were alluded to, weren’t very clear.
But anyway, it’s a nice read with only a bit of crying.
I have to admit I picked it because I liked the cover and the sound of the author’s name, which sounded Russian though from the back blurb itself it was quickly apparent that she was Russian only in origin and that what came to define her was her experience of France during the Occupation and annihilation by the Nazis. That gave me pause because I cannot handle any literature dealing with the Holocaust and given that these days, I tear up while watching the news, I wasn’t sure I should put myself through this.
So, I steeled myself when I opened this novel and I was pleasantly surprised. It had a rather unusual way of dealing with the Occupation. It told a series of fleetingly connected stories relating to people fleeing Paris before the armistice was declared but the obvious hardship they would have gone through are eluciadated but not over-emphasised. Rather, Nimerovsky deliberately chooses to shock not by displaying the misery and terror of the poor but the selfishness, vanity and corruption of the rich. And she does this with quite a light touch so it’s not didactic in tone.
What also surprised me was the treatment of the Germans in the novel. There was no demonising of the invader; instead she chose to focus on the rather conflicted emotions that village women, whose men were all away, experienced when confronted with the youthful and polished enemy ranks. There is only slight mention of the treatment of Jews.
And this surprises me, because Nimerovsky suffered and finally died because she was a Jew and yet, she treated the Nazi soldiers almost tenderly in the novel and left out any reference to Jews being carted away as if there were none in the villages she wrote about.
The novel is a glaring contrast to the letters at the end in which the desperation of Nimerovsky’s husband as he tries to find and save his wife is played out in his correspondence with her publisher, who I have to say give one hope for humanity because they continued to be supportive till the end. Maybe, Nimerovsky was afraid to put anything too anti-German in her novel as it would hurt her chances of getting published or endanger her life. Or maybe there are nuances I am missing. If anyone has read the book and has any thoughts, let me know.
I have discovered a new detective author Yay. In case you’re wondering authors I’ve enjoyed in the last decade are Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series (I love!), Harlen Coben’s Myron Bolitar series (though the others are good as well) and Lawrence Sander’s McNally series. I don’t like Connelly as much as those but at least it’s pretty good and keeps me gripped.