This is a beautiful and moving book, rich in its sense of history and character and in its vivid evocation of Berlin. It encompasses four generations of a lively, prosperous and cultivated Jewish family during the last years of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. The story begins with a tragedy: the death of Franziska in childbirth, and the promise she extorts from her sister Laetitia that she will marry her widower for the sake of her four children. The promise ruins Laetitia's life; forced to give up her lover and acting career for a man who repels her, she eventually goes mad. For the rest of the story she is a recurring presence, her fate a reminder of the forces of unreason already gathering in society.
The family is rescued by Franziska's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, whose steady concern and goodness bring her siblings safely through their childhood. Later, when she is married, her spacious flat, with its Persian rugs and discreetly opulent furnishings, is a haven of comfort and continuity for them all. The devastation of