Troubador Invisible Ink

Invisible Ink

Released: 28/01/2021

ISBN: 9781800460386

eISBN: 9781800467620

aISBN: 9781800467736

Format: Paperback/eBook/Audio Book

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Invisible Ink

A Family Memoir

by

Martha’s parents were both extraordinary people living in extraordinary times. Ralph was a brilliant, poor Jew from the East End. Edith, also Jewish from a bourgeois family in Central Europe was a gifted pianist. They met as students in Paris in 1937 and were separated by the war. Their intimate, emotional and sometimes humorous correspondence throughout the war led to marriage in 1945. Each bore scars. She, from escaping the Nazis, he from childhood tragedy. Overshadowing them both was a secret that burdened Ralph for most of his life. After the war he became the world expert on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edith devoted herself to her piano, performing and teaching. Invisible Ink is a compassionate, astute and ultimately uplifting portrait of their relationship.

The author has also unearthed many other stories: her uncle’s heroism and pioneering work in medicine, her grandmother and cousin’s miraculous escapes from the holocaust. These are threads entwined in the greater tapestry of social and political history of the twentieth century. In discovering the truth about her family, Martha has also taken an inner journey towards understanding herself.

The Jewish Chronicle

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph

Hackney Citizen

Jewish Chronicle

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.

Curtis Price

by Curtis Price


This was a surprise for sure. I found this novel by chance and the blurb intrigued me enough to pick it up, but the writing is what kept me going. Leigh perfectly weaves the story of her family through decades, stitching together this scattered family across Europe. The research and time that went into this is not missed, through countless letters and documents we learn of her family's history, their happiest moments and darkest days. She writes this all with compassion and warmth, bringing these family members to life. There's bravery in telling her parents story, the raw and honesty that comes along with uncovering ones past. This was impactful, drawing on the importance of family but more importantly, love and acceptance. A wonderful memoir that I'm glad to have read.

by NetGalley review


Another book from my favorite time period to read on. As a human we must never let these atrocities of WW2 and the Holocaust be forgotten.

Martha, in this memoir, weaves stories of real people with real experiences and real feelings. I felt their emotions as I got to read another account of being Jewish at this time in history. I will never understand the strength that many of these persons had. I honor each sacrifice as I read books from this time period.

by NetGalley review


This is a fascinating book. It’s more than a social history, more than a family history. It tells the story of the second world war through the microcosm of a Jewish family in Europe. Apart from telling the story of incredible struggle, for me the theme which emerged throughout was the question of identity: religious, national and personal. Detailed research underpins the narrative, but this is no footnote-dripping academic book; it reads like a novel with the added ingredient that all the characters were real people. This is truly a remarkable story and I kept thinking throughout the book how it should be a film, perhaps because the author paints such a good picture of the characters and the environments in which they find themselves. Ultimately it’s a love story, primarily between two people, but also the author’s love for her family.

by Richard Houdmont


This is a beautifully written and absorbing account of the author’s parents‘ lives, focussing on their experiences during the Second World War and their developing relationship. Their early years were very different. Edith enjoyed a happy home in Czernowitz in the Austro Hungarian empire before the war and later became a lauded concert pianist after managing to narrowly escape capture by the Nazis in Paris. As a young man, Ralph struggled in relative poverty in the E end of London but later became a brilliant academic at Cambridge university and a world expert on Rousseau. Ms Leigh describes in detail their efforts to maintain their relationship during six years of separation, and the account is extremely moving and incredibly well-researched. There is a huge amount to interest the reader in this book, including the issue of identity and I would highly recommend it.

by Anne Smyth


Parents are so close to each of us, and yet they can spring surprises, sometimes during their lifetimes, and sometimes after they have died. They come when letters are unearthed and perused, and tales are told, and the greater is the potential for surprise when parents have struggled through external disruption and internal conflict. Choosing to follow the trails needs courage and an openness to admit unfamiliar aspects of these central figures in one’s life. When Martha came upon a wry joke left by her father in and amongst his many papers saying “This page is written in invisible ink“, she felt compelled to find out more.
Martha Leigh’s parents had to take critical decisions as they navigated their individual lives through the fall-out of European politics in the 1930s and 1940s. Martha takes us from Czernowitz, a much disputed town which used to be just inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire, close to the Russian border, and is today in Romania, through occupied France, Vienna, Switzerland, Germany, and London, before the family settled in Cambridge. Her mother, a passionate concert pianist and teacher, and her father, a don whose work in assembling the entire correspondence of and about Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains the definitive oeuvre, kept a few secrets.
Through her journey, Martha is able to find what lay behind the reference to invisible ink. It is an absorbing story, skilfully told, and one that triggers questions and rumination - a wholly worthwhile read.

by Helen Marquard


This was a surprise for sure. I found this novel by chance and the blurb intrigued me enough to pick it up, but the writing is what kept me going. Leigh perfectly weaves the story of her family through decades, stitching together this scattered family across Europe. The research and time that went into this is not missed, through countless letters and documents we learn of her family's history, their happiest moments and darkest days. She writes this all with compassion and warmth, bringing these family members to life. There's bravery in telling her parents story, the raw and honesty that comes along with uncovering ones past. This was impactful, drawing on the importance of family but more importantly, love and acceptance. A wonderful memoir that I'm glad to have read.

by Emily


Martha Leigh

I grew up in Cambridge, where my father was researching into Jean-Jacques Rousseau at Trinity College, and my mother was a concert pianist. I passed A-Levels in English, French and German and then went to York University where I gained a degree in English Literature in 1976. Shortly before taking my finals, I decided I was going to train as a doctor. After qualifying, I moved East London where I worked as a GP for thirty years. My first book wrote 'Couldn't afford the eels, Memories of Wapping 1900 -1960' was based on interviews I had conducted, some of which were with my patients. I retired in 2016 but am going back to work for the NHS to help with the vaccination programme against Covid.

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