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.
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