From the book
The desktop was always covered with mail, incoming and outgoing. Appeals from charities, politicians, whether federal, state, or town, bills and letters from scattered friends, all came flowing. Sometimes it seemed to Annette that the whole world made connection with her here and asked for response.
She picked up the pen to finish the last of the notes. Her precise backhand script lay between wide margins, the paper was as smooth as pressed linen, and the dark blue monogram was decorative without possessing too many curlicues. The whole, even to the back of the envelope, on which her name was engraved--Mrs. Lewis Martinson Byrne, with her address beneath--was pleasing. E-mail might be the way these days, but there was still nothing as satisfying to send or to receive as a well-written letter; also these days, "Ms." might be the title of choice for many, but Annette still preferred to be "Mrs.," and that was that.
Having sealed the envelope, she placed it on top of the tidy pile of blue-and-whites, sighed, "There--that's finished," and stood up to stretch. At eighty-five, even though your doctor said that you were physically ten years younger, you could expect to feel stiff after sitting so long. Actually, you could expect almost anything, she thought, knowing how to laugh at herself.
Old people were amusing to the young. Once when she was less than ten years old, her mother had taken her to call on a woman who lived down the country road. It seemed, as most things did now, like yesterday.
"She's very old, at least ninety, Annette. She was a married woman with children when Lincoln was president."
That had meant nothing to Annette.
"My nephew took me out in his machine," the old woman had said. "We went all the way without a horse." Marveling, she had repeated, "Without a horse."
That had seemed ridiculous to Annette.
"So now it's my turn," she said aloud. "And yet, inside, I don't feel any different from the way I felt when I was twenty." She laughed again. "I only look different."
There she was between the windows, framed in gilt, eternally blond and thirty years old, in a red velvet dress. Lewis had wanted to display her prominently in the living room, rather than here in the more private library. But she had objected: portraits were intimate things, not to be shown off before the world.
Facing her and framed in matching gilt on the opposite wall was Lewis himself, wearing the same expression he had worn in life, alert, friendly, and faintly curious. Often, when she was alone here, she spoke to him.
"Lewis, you would have been amused at what I saw today" (or saddened, or angry). "Lewis, what do you think about it? Do you agree?"
He had been dead ten years, yet his presence was still in the house. It was the reason, or the chief one, anyway, why she had never moved.
It had been a lively house, filled with the sounds of children, friends, and music, and it was lively still. Scouts had meetings in the converted barn, and nature-study classes were invited. Once the place had been a farm, and after that a country estate, one of the less lavish ones in a spacious landscape some two or three hours' drive from New York. They had bought it as soon as their growing prosperity had allowed. The grounds, hill, pond, and meadow were treasures and had already been promised after Annette's death to the town, to be kept as a green park forever. That had been Lewis's idea; caring so much about plants and trees, he had built the greenhouse onto the kitchen wing; all their Christmas trees had been live, and now, when you looked beyond the meadow, you saw in a...
- Listeners may need a few minutes to get past Bradshaw's pronounced twang. Once over this hurdle, one is captivated by his mission to heal the early hurts of wounded adults. He accomplishes this with a delivery that is genuine, sincere and confidence-building; his delivery varies from personal and comforting to expansive and comic. He provides moments for private meditation, as well as the feeling of a shared group experience. Except for one instance when a hokey angelic chorus enters, the choice of music is pleasant and unobtrusive. E.F.A. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
- This story of a family with long-held animosities ends with a satisfying resolution. Until the very end, however, the plot and characters are contrived and dull. Nor does Lindsay Crouse's narration add any life to the book. Every phrase or sentence ends with her voice dropping suddenly into flatness. There's almost no attempt to distinguish among characters' voices, and at times the listener is unsure of who is speaking. Musical additions are inappropriate and jarring to the ear, as well. Another rendition might improve the listener's enjoyment of this novel, but it's doubtful, since the material seems as problematic as the production itself. J.J.F. (c) AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine
- In his quest to discover his family's history, protagonist Peter Debauer weaves a brilliant Proustian memoir evoking the small details of smells, taste, colors, and sounds of his last summer visit with his grandparents. Peter discovers a fragmented novel whose pseudonymous author seems familiar with aspects of Peter's own life in Germany after WWII, as well as the identity of his father. As secrets are revealed, moral issues relating to WWII come to the fore--a theme reminiscent of Schlink's earlier bestseller, THE READER. Paul Michael's subtle German accent and softened tones when speaking as a female lend the story credibility. Heim's graceful translation and dexterous use of English idioms keep characters and events clear as the novel spans the period from WWII to the fall of the Berlin Wall. A.W. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
- San Francisco Chronicle "Belva Plain writes with authority and integrity."
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