The Exiles Return

Elisabeth de Waal. Picador, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-04578-2
Until Edmund de Waal, Elisabeth de Waal’s grandson, inherited “the yellowing typescript” of this historical novel, written in the 1950s, it languished and was untitled and unpublished in her lifetime. The setting is postwar Vienna, a city “of recognition and non-recognition, of the comfortably familiar and the frighteningly strange.” After immigrating to the U.S. to escape Nazi persecution, Jewish scientist Kuno Adler returns to Vienna, where he finds love while fleeing the confines of his marriage. Adler comes face-to-face with Austria’s recent past when he discovers that his supervisor is “one self-confessed, unrepentant Nazi.” Marie-Theres is an aloof, pedigreed American teenager staying with family in Austria; her marriage plot weaves through the book and supplies the melodrama of its denouement. Will Resi marry down to Lucas Anreither, who is loving and stable, but the grandson of the family’s gamekeeper? Or will she marry Lorenzo Grein, a titled aristocrat? Why does the wealthy Theophil Kanakis host salons and surround himself with Vienna’s glittering youth? While the novel’s prose is by turns lyrical and melancholy, and there’s much to be admired in this elegy to loss and return, the novel’s dramatic impact is ultimately thwarted by an operatic ending that betrays its age. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/28/2013
Release date: 01/07/2014
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-250-04579-9
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-250-06374-8
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