Friday, November 05, 2004

Hester Among the Ruins

The Books & Brunch classes will be discussing Binnie Kirshenbaum's novel Hester Among the Ruins on November 16 and 17, 2004. Here's a brief summary from Publisher's Weekly:

This tale of a Jewish biographer's literal love affair with her German subject describes with worldly and generally persuasive candor the history that complicates their relationship. Hester Rosenfeld, an American Jewish historian born in 1963, travels to Munich to interview Heinrich Falk, a German historian 20 years her senior, for a scholarly work about his life. As Hester unravels biographical threads rolled out by Heinrich's relatives and numerous ex-wives, she finds that his present rejection of his heritage (most specifically, his mother's sympathies with the Nazis) is not as simple or absolute as it seems. She also falls head over heels in love with him, eventually causing the temporary dissolution of his current marriage. As Heinrich and Hester deepen their knowledge of each other's lives and feelings, their characters manifest themselves more fully as well. Hester, seemingly wary and jaded at the novel's outset, reveals her insecurity, obsession with historical legacy and scorn for her own parents in bits and pieces. Heinrich, at first an offbeat charmer whose idiosyncrasies fascinate Hester, eventually reveals that he is unable to free himself from his suspicious ideological inheritance. Kirshenbaum brings believable complexity to her portrayal of Jewish life in contemporary Munich; at one moment, a group of Croatian soccer enthusiasts resemble militant youth to Hester, while at another, she notices that she gets better service in restaurants when she wears a star of David around her neck. The novel's structure, a mixture of postcards, e-mails and straightforward narrative, is subtly erected and does not obstruct understanding.
the teach

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