The Birthmark

Dorothea Straus, Author George Braziller $14.95 (206p) ISBN 978-0-8076-1174-6
This humorless novel by the author of Under the Canopy consists largely of the self-important narrator's diatribe against the weakness, sentimentality, skewed values and empty boasting of her brother Nicholas. Though her rehashing of the family history finally reveals her own shortcomings to the narrator, the stolid intensity of the text inhibits the reader's emotional involvement. The frame for the portrait of brotherly inadequacy is the Brooklyn-based Bloch family, owners of Meistersinger beer, whose scion Nicholas invents the Meistersinger (read Rheingold) annual beauty contest, thus briefly enhancing the firm's fortune and prestige. Given Nicholas's lifelong eye for the main chancehis sycophancy toward women, his renunciation of Judaism for Catholicismit's not surprising that he tries to turn a family business into an empire, but as his sister had always known he would, he plunges it into bankruptcy. Only after Nicholas's death does his sister become aware that it was not her brother she was ashamed of, but herself, and that the birthmark on his noseperhaps the mark of Jewishnessdisfigured her as well. (April 23)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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