cover image My Berlin Child

My Berlin Child

Anne Wiazemsky, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson, Europa (Penguin, dist.), $15 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-60945-003-8

A forest's worth of wooden prose dooms this airless account of wartime romance. It is 1944 and 27-year-old Claire Mauriac, the daughter of a famous French writer, is an ambulance driver in the city of Béziers. With her fiancé, Patrice, held in a German POW camp, Claire dedicates herself to her sometimes arduous ambulance work, writes many letters to her parents, and suffers migraines that take on a strangely prominent role in the story. But when Claire travels to Berlin after the war is over, she meets Russian-born French soldier Ivan "Wia" Wiazemsky and her life is forever changed. Perhaps something was lost in the translation, but this tedious narrative, with its clunky prose ("I want an optimistic wife who doesn't have migraines") and slack story, reads like a vanity family history project and should be of little interest to anyone whose last name isn't Wiazemsky. (Mar.)