The Song and the Truth

Helga Ruebsamen, Author, Paul Vincent, Translator Alfred A. Knopf $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-40261-6
Dutch writer Ruebsamen casts a Proustian spell in her third novel, a bestseller in the Netherlands, published here in Vincent's graceful translation. Written in the style of a youthful memoir--with all of memory's distortions and defections--the novel follows a Jewish family from their comfortable life in the exotic Dutch East Indies to their increasingly isolated existence in The Hague in 1939, and to their WWII hiding place in rural Holland. The story is narrated by Louise Benda, who is only 10 when the novel closes in 1945. In the Java and Bali of her earliest years, Louise (called Lulu by her affectionate family) lives in a magic-lantern world where trees and streams speak to her, ""night people"" tend her and ""spirits slumbered in flowers."" Her high-strung mother, Helene, is beautiful and needy; her father, Cees (short for Caesar), is a physician at a clinic for women, where her Aunt Margot also works; a visit from Uncle Felix, Cees's brother, adds a new dimension to their complex relationships, especially as Louise witnesses, and unwittingly reveals, the betrayals among them. Meanwhile, war looms, and fears about their relatives motivate the Bendas to return to Holland, where they live with various members of their complicated and colorful family. The perceptions of the adult Louise are interjected into the story only occasionally, and the child's perspective, which gives equal credence to dreams and reality and which can only hint at adult motives, can be confusing. New characters enter the plot roughly the way they enter a child's life--with little or no explanation. Others leave as peremptorily, while characters who die remain alive for Louise. These complexities do not overwhelm the novel's charm and poignancy, however, especially since Ruebsamen treats all her wayward characters with great tenderness. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-375-70277-8
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4090-0182-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-00355-2
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-307-42937-7
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.