The Mark of the Angel

Nancy Huston, Author
Nancy Huston, Author Steerforth Press $21 (215p) ISBN 978-1-883642-64-8
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Hardcover - 978-1-57490-244-0
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-375-70921-0
Hardcover - 276 pages - 978-0-7011-6933-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-09-928364-5
Compact Disc - 224 pages - 978-1-74093-439-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-74030-740-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-74310-984-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-74310-782-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-74319-087-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-74319-289-4
Hardcover - 978-1-74094-258-4
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Drenched in irony, and very French in sensibility, Huston's U.S. debut must overcome an unfortunate beginning before it gallops away with the reader's mesmerized attention--but once underway, it fascinates with its blend of cynicism and romance, and its dramatization of the roles of accident and fate, and of evil and injustice, in human history. Initially, one must accept a far-fetched plot: that when world-famous flutist Raphael Lepage sees Saffie, the young German woman who answers an ad for a maid to clean his luxurious Paris apartment, he immediately succumbs to overwhelming love and soon afterward marries her--despite the fact that she is as emotionless as a zombie, does not even remotely return his affections and is anathema to his beloved mother, who has never forgiven the Nazi occupation 20 years before. Even the birth of a son does not thaw Saffie's cold indifference, which persists until she meets Andr s, a Hungarian-Jewish refugee who repairs musical instruments; the mutual recognition of irresistible passion releases all her emotions. During their liaisons in his little shop in the Marais, Andr s tells Saffie about the destruction of his family in Budapest, and she reveals her own traumatic memories of WWII--the Allied bombings, her father's complicity with the campaign of annihilation, her mother's brutal rape by conquering Russian soldiers. Even as their affair unfolds, however, the horrifying events of the 1940s are being repeated in Algeria and France, as FLN terrorists strike back at French atrocities. In the end, innocence must die, as, Huston reminds us, it always has and always will. While Huston often overwrites and sometimes indulges in arch asides, once she establishes her story's central ironies, the narrative achieves a relentless velocity. A scene in which both Saffie and Andr s recall separate incidents in which poorly buried bodies erupt through the earth, drenching the soil with blood, is a shattering reminder of the endless cycle of human violence. Canadian-born Huston has lived in France for more than three decades, where her books (seven novels plus nonfiction works) are bestsellers. BOMC and QPB selections; paperback rights to Vintage. (Oct.) FYI: The Mark of an Angel won the French Prix des Lectrices d'ELLE and the Prix des Librairies in Canada, and is shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt in France. Huston's other awards include the Prix Contrepoint, the Prix Goncourt Lyceen and the Canadian Governor General's Award in French.
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