Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal

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The exiles return(Published by Picador, Jan. 7, 2014)

I loved, no, adored, The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, so I read this, which is by his grandmother Elizabeth. The novel was unfinished, and lay untouched for decades, and his grandmother herself had not cared too much for getting it published. De Waal stitched it back together (he explains this in the foreword) and this is the result.

It is a product of her time and upbringing, and so portrays fairly accurately, I think, the setting of Vienna, Austria, during and after the Anschluss in the 1930s, and 1954 to 1955. While it is fiction, it is clear that Elizabeth was writing very much from her own experience and her voice is quite clear. She must’ve been a fascinating person.

It is by no means perfect – the structure is a bit clumsy and the motivation of the characters is somewhat superficial. But it is worth reading – and reading between the lines – if you know the history of the Ephrussi family depicted in The Hare with Amber Eyes.

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