The Kindness of Strangers

Mary Mackey, Author Simon & Schuster $18.45 (607p) ISBN 978-0-671-62710-2
Two wars, three countries and four famous actresses propel this weighty saga through six decades of history. The focus is on Viola Kessler, whose mother's dress caught fire from an onstage candle, whose playwright husband Joseph was doused with gasoline and ignited by a Nazi flunky, and whose granddaughter Mandy, her career at its brilliant beginning, was trapped in a flaming helicopter. After Joseph's death, when Viola is playing to packed houses in Paris, she marries the socialist Richard Stafford, who turns out to be an English milord and lures her to London with the promise of a theater of her own. Viola brings her daughter Kathe to her husband's country estate for a period of relative quiet until the Spanish Civil War erupts and Richard is killed. World War II brings other stresses to Viola's life; she smuggles Jews out of Germany, but later is accused of collaborating with the Nazis. Then her daughter Kathe departs for New York, where she marries an old friend of her mother's, a producer who teaches her the tricks of the acting trade. Earnest, courageous and well-meaning though they are, the protagonists never come to life, nor does the prose measure up to the events it recounts. But packed with incident, with stellar figures from the worlds of politics and theater, this new novel by the author of A Grand Passion will not fail to galvanize narrative-hungry readers. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-553-28283-2
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