Over the years I’ve read several books about the Holocaust and its survivors, and reviewed several in this Thursday column. Each one is different; everyone had a different experience. As you read this debut work by author Miranda Richmond Mouillot, you sense that underlying it all are the horrors of the Holocaust.
This book is different, however, because there are few direct references to the Holocaust. Instead, it’s a story about her grandparents, Armand and Anna, who married in 1944 and in 1948 went their separate ways, and in the ensuing years had only one brief encounter. However, somewhat mysteriously before they parted ways, Armand and Anna purchased an old house in the south of France.
Years later, the mystery surrounding the purchase of the never-lived-in house, , and why her grandparents had such animosity towards each other, became a quest of sorts for Mouillot to discover what happened almost a half century earlier. She turned that quest for answers into a deeply personal story and this book.
I found the book interesting, but it is over four hundred and fifty pages and I kept waiting for the questions to be answered. As I neared the end of the book, I assumed all the ends would be tied up (at least for me). Ms. Mouillot seems to have come to her own conclusions and in the end was able to find her own peace and move on with her life. For this reader, however, it was a bit of a letdown.
Likely, one of the underlying reasons Armand and Anna split up had something to do with the horrors of the Holocaust. Armand heard firsthand accounts while serving as a translator at the Nuremberg trials, and it was following the conclusion of those trials that the two split. Day after day he had heard about some of the most horrific atrocities ever committed, so the author herself concludes that somehow had something to do with her grandparents splitting up.
I’m not sure either how it could have come across with a more satisfying ending for the reader. Great authors may tease their readers, but the story ends, good or bad, with some sort of conclusion. This book didn’t have that vibe. In the end, as I suspected, her grandparents’ “fifty-year silence” did indeed have something to do with the Holocaust, but there were too few details to make for a compelling conclusion – not enough meat I suppose.
It was a deeply personal book for Ms. Mouillot to write, that much is obvious, and it’s apparent the story was as much or more about her own journey to answer the nagging questions about why Armand and Anna could barely stand to say the other one’s name. Still, one can glean some insight into the human condition as she relates Armand and Anna’s stories, as well as her own (she met her husband in France while researching the house mystery). I just wish the story could have taken up the Holocaust thread earlier in the book and woven it through to a more satisfying conclusion.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.