Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Short book about a long silence

There's not much to A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France, as its young author, Miranda Richmond Mouillot, concedes with this summary on the very last page: "Armand and Anna fell in love, bought a house and never spoke again." Her 263-page book details her efforts to discover why Armand and Anna, her maternal grandparents, never spoke again.

There is a bit more to the story. Armand and Anna, both Jews, survived World War II in France, although other family members did not. They saw little of each other during the war. Afterward they married, bought that house and lived together long enough to have a daughter. Then Armand became a translator at the Nuremberg Trials, where he learned firsthand what the Germans did to the Jews. After that, silence. Armand stayed in France. Anna moved to the United States, where years later Miranda was born. Why her grandparents never spoke, yet in some odd way still seemed to love one another, weighed on her mind while she was growing up. Eventually she found that ruined house, spent time with her grandfather and began to piece together the story that neither grandparent wanted to talk about.

Because this story really doesn't amount to much, Mouillot fills out her book with details of her own life, including her romance with and eventual marriage to a Frenchman. She's a fine writer. Not everyone could make so much out of so little and still make it worth reading.

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