Tales of Loving and Leaving by Gaby Weiner
|Tales of Loving and Leaving by Gaby Weiner|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: The story of a mother, father and grandmother, displaced across Europe by factors outside their control - particularly the rise of the Nazis as this family is Jewish. Carefully researched and flavoured with the author's relationships with and feelings about her family members, this is both an interesting and affecting read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: September 2016|
In Tales of Loving and Leaving, author Gaby Weiner tells the story of three of her family members: her grandmother, Amalia Moszkowicz Dinger; her mother, Steffi Dinger; and her father, Uszer Frocht.
The bare bones of the family story, without giving too much away, is that Weiner's father came to Britain just before WW2 broke out, having been deported from Belgium due to his communist activities. While in London, he met Weiner's mother, they struck up a relationship and Weiner was born. But Weiner's father, Uszer, already had a wife and family back in Belgium. You can see how it happened: there was a war on, the family was Jewish, and Uszer had no idea if they were alive or dead. But after the war was over, he had two families, a history of political activity authorities objected to and things were, to put it politely, complicated. I'll leave it at that because I think you should read the book for the rest of the story - and there is plenty of it to read.
It's a fascinating and absorbing book. Weiner notes in her introduction that history is usually told from the point of view of the powerful, or looking at things from the level of an entire country or region. We hear much less often about the individual lives shaped by these great forces. And yet sometimes, these individual stories do more to illustrate the larger forces at work than any analysis of parliaments and elections and arms races. And, in seeking to make sense of a family partly defined by a father who was not often present but who always formed a large presence in his daughter's life, Weiner has given us a story of three lives which can tell us a great deal.
Amalia, Uszer and Steffi led lives shaped by the turmoils of the twentieth century: not just the rise of the Nazis and WW2 and the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the Russian Revolution, mass population transfers and the Cold War. It's the story of how three people reacted to forces greater than themselves, how they interacted with the politics and people in the countries they found themselves living in, and how these things affected the relationships they made and how they conducted them. It's fascinating and often very moving.
The writing is clear and elegant and is flavoured both by Weiner's honesty - for example, her jealousy on standing by her father's grave and seeing it was next to the grave of the wife who wasn't her mother - and her compassionate understanding of the flaws and frailties and courage of her family members. I read it in one sitting, fascinated by the careful research and the living of three lives that were so complicated and difficult yet so recognisable in the daily effort of putting one foot in front of the other, despite all the obstacles.
Tales of Loving and Leaving comes recommended by me.
You could also look at The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, a memoir by one of the youngest people on Oskar Schindler's list of Jews saved from the Nazis. Or maybe An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan, in which a granddaughter tries to make sense of the deaths of her grandparents, Hungarian Jews who had lived through the German occupation of Hungary in WW2, then fled to Denmark when the Soviets occupied in 1956.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tales of Loving and Leaving by Gaby Weiner at Amazon.com.
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