cover image Summer at Gaglow

Summer at Gaglow

Esther Freud. Ecco Press, $23.95 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-88001-585-1

Separated by chronology, history and geography, Eva Belgard and her granddaughter, Sarah Linder, exist vividly in the parallel plots of Freud's third novel, a bestseller in England. Eva is 11 in 1914, a German-Jewish girl who comes of age during WWI; Sarah is British, an unmarried mother of our day whose sole links to her grandmother are curiosity and physical resemblance. Sarah's contemporary trials--her back-and-forth with her baby's father, her sittings for her artist father and her quest to learn family history--are interesting but not as compelling as the hypnotic internal conflicts that have damaged the Belgard family even more than war and anti-Semitism. Alternating chapters feature flashbacks to Eva and her two older sisters, who have been convinced by flamboyant governess Fraulein Schulze of their mother Marianna's ""evils of frivolity."" ""Schu Schu's"" divisive influence in the family reaches even farther than it seems at first; the unearthing of her role is the point on which the story turns. Most fascinating, though, is the portrayal of a pre-Holocaust Jewish family of the upper class. When Sarah imagines Marianna begging the Nazis not to seize the Belgard estate, Gaglow, because her son Emanuel ""gave up his strength for the Fatherland,"" we are reminded of how successfully Freud (Hideous Kinky) has drawn the opening and closing of the 20th century around the ugly historic chasm in the middle. (Apr.) FYI: Freud is the daughter of Lucien and the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud.