A meticulously crafted memoir. The turbulent history of 20th century Europe is the backdrop for Martha Leigh’s complex and engaging account of her family, a story of suspense, danger and revelation.
by Ruth Cornell
This is a most remarkable book. An investigation of the hidden and obscure genealogies of the author’s distinguished parents, it becomes an enthralling account of their experiences of the Second World War, the holocaust, cultural identity and physical dislocation, heroism and, at its heart, an epic love story. This is both a primary source, since Martha Leigh is keeper of the extensive family archives, and a work of history which offers new light on the Régime de Vichy, La Résistance, daring rescues and escapes from both the Nazis and the Soviets (as well as the Swiss!), the experiences of a budding concert pianist in war-ravaged Europe, and developments in post-war medical science. This brilliant writing conveys painful and intimate details of her parents’ lives with compassion yet an air of detachment, which makes the narrative all the more moving. Summing up the effect on the family of her father’s homosexuality, Martha Leigh writes, ‘it was better for us both to have an unspoken understanding’. Unspoken, perhaps, but this book is a compelling exploration of the human condition.
by Curtis Price