THEM: A Memoir of Parents

Francine du Plessix Gray, Author, Francine Du Plessix Gray, Author . Penguin Press $29.95 (544p) ISBN 978-1-59420-049-6

"My mother enjoyed claiming direct descent from Genghis Khan," Gray explains as she opens this complex and rewarding family memoir. That claim gave her mother "both the aristocratic pedigree and the freedom to be a barbarian." Tatiana Yakovleva du Plessix Liberman was 19 and hungry in 1925 when she left the Soviet Union for France. Tatiana and Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky soon fell passionately in love, but the ever-practical woman married aristocratic Frenchman Bertrand du Plessix instead. They had one child, Francine, before du Plessix was killed in early WWII combat. Tatiana then became involved with Alexander Liberman, a British- and French-educated artistic Jewish-Russian émigré. Alex, Tatiana and Francine fled to New York in 1941 and started a new life—Tatiana designing hats for Bendel's before a career with Saks, Alex scaling the fashion journalism ladder at Condé Nast. New Yorker contributor Gray tells the story of this talented, self-absorbed couple from their roots to their graves. The final chapters—with the death of Demerol-addicted Tatiana and Alex's remarriage to an adoring nurse—are unbearably tragic, and the inside story of the Liberman ménage is more addictive than any Vanity Fair exclusive. Gray is such a fine writer, her family story reads like a novel of early 20th-century bohemianism gone corporate. Rich with history of early to mid-20th-century design and publishing, this memoir stands as an instructive model of how to write a difficult story honestly. Gray's parents were not nice people, but she loved them, and readers, by the end, understand why. Photos. Agents, Georges and Anne Borchardt. (May 5)

Reviewed on: 03/07/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 529 pages - 978-0-14-303719-4
Open Ebook - 544 pages - 978-1-101-22136-5
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