Tales of the Master Race

Marcie Hershman, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (223p) ISBN 978-0-06-016644-1
Set in the mythical Bavarian city of Kreiswald between 1939 and 1943, this first novel is actually a series of interlocking short stories dealing with such seemingly ordinary preoccupations of small-town life as adultery, family illness and raising children. The author contrasts her characters' unexceptional concerns with the extraordinariness of their historical context; the Holocaust is a faint but insistent rumbling in the background of most of these quotidian dramas. Like the police commander struggling to maintain order after an Allied bombing raid destroys his headquarters (``The Shift''), Hershman's characters try to behave as if nothing has changed. When they are self-aware (``The Traitor'') the result is artificial and preachy. But the intricacy of the novel's overall structure makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts, as details from one tale turn up in another, given additional resonance by the reader's knowledge of their previous uses, a knowledge the characters lack. Thus, a geranium goes from being a tentative gesture of seduction (``The Guillotine'') to a symbol of shattered faith (``The Map''). (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-06-092353-2
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