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Summer At Gaglow (1999)

Summer At Gaglow (1999)

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3.31 of 5 Votes: 1
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0880016728 (ISBN13: 9780880016728)
harper perennial

About book Summer At Gaglow (1999)

Three sisters in the time preceding and during World War I in Germany find common ground in their disdain for their mother and love of their brother. In a parallel story in the present day, three half-sisters in England find common ground in their love for and frustration with their father, among other things. These stories are told in alternating chapters. In the center of them all, looming like a shadow, is a grand home in the German countryside, Gaglow.Gaglow is given as payment of a debt to the German girls' father. This form of payment is complicated by the fact that the family is Jewish and were therefore not supposed to own land; property was OK, but fields and such, not so. This edifice is a dream palace for one of the girls and her mother, something of a prison to the other two girls, who find it dowdy and overwhelming. When in the present time it is discovered that Gaglow has been inherited by the family of the half-sisters, one of them also evinces, sight unseen, a passion for this place.The characters here are sharply drawn and the prose and plot development are masterful. Does this sound like damning with faint praise? I'm afraid that is so. The odd thing about this book is that, while the subject matter would seem to suggest warmth, caring and loving or tragedy, sadness, and grief, the reader is kept at perpetual arm's length from any emotional involvement. In the end, the deaths and loves and births and joys feel more like a laundry list of things happening to some distant relation than something in which we have been invited to participate. How odd.I doubt this was Freud's intention, this icy distance. I suspect she set out to write a book about people we would end up caring deeply about. But something in her prose and her descriptions seems to work against this ever happening, though I am a bit stumped to say exactly what it is. But this feeling of uninvolvement, as if this is all being seen in dumb show behind a pane of glass, is pervasive and inescapable. It's a true shame, because in every other way this is a masterful book (though I found the predictability of the alternating chapters a bit dull). This is the first of her books I have read and the pure talent she displays will certainly make it worth my while to look further. I wanted to like this book and its characters, but in the end found I could not. Maybe next time.

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