I wrote this rant for goodreads, but The Professor tells me it should also be a blog post. (She bosses me around. I like it.)
If you aren’t familiar with the book, this bookrags synopsis will give you enough context.
About halfway into this book, I thought it was a 4-star heading for 5. I liked the characters and thought the plot structure was coming together nicely. It was downhill from there. Things sort of unraveled and were only resolved by, as another goodreads reviewer wrote, a series of ridiculous coincidences. Deus ex machina, but more annoying.
SPOILERS – avert your eyes.
But what just ruined this book completely for me was the uber-unbelievable premise. I understand that as a young woman in 1946 Margaret might have been overwhelmed by the revelation of the nasty provenance of her collection. But it’s 50 years later! With her background and her knowledge and her apparently almost unlimited financial resources, it never occurred to her until a taxi happens by Paris’ Jewish archive and she looks out at it in a near-death haze, that there might be sufficient records to find the owners of at least some of those items? And even though the collection has been written about in arts and antiques journals–the Parisians were already familiar with it–no one has ever given her a jingle to suggest she might want to look into it, or to offer to look into it for her? And her best idea of how to deal with it is to smash it all up? And the local B’nai B’rith thinks this is a swell idea?
Years ago, I had a terrible falling out with a friend (we’ll call her Amy) (though her name was Jillian) who never spoke to me again. Our last communication came by way of a paper letter she sent me, full of meanness and invective. As a way of letting go, I burned it up, then used the ashes to write “I Love Amy” on a piece of paper. I don’t remember specifically, but I probably decorated it in some way as well. What I’m saying is, I understand the impulse to crush pain and to heal it by turning it into beauty. The difference? THE LETTER WAS MINE TO BURN. The very first instance–her wedding china–had Margaret breaking her own things. After that, it was all someone else’s.
Or let’s say nothing–not one piece!–could be identified through research. How about a little sale, with the proceeds going to a Holocaust museum, or hey, I know–the Paris Jewish archive! Or seeing whether any Jewish or Holocaust organizations might want the collection as a whole–it would make an incredible juxtaposition to the shoe display–can you imagine the power of that? Margaret’s character does not seem to have contemplated any of these ways of resolving the moral conundrum she was so unfairly strapped with. I know she has a brain tumor NOW, but what has she been thinking the last 50 years?
On her website, Stephanie Kallos mentions a local organization that has as one of its emphases, the idea of healing in the way described in the novel. Sounds great, as long as you’re breaking your own stuff. Read about them here: http://www.seattlemosaicarts.com/