Sunday, July 15, 2012

Empress of Weehawken- Irene Dische

Empress of Weehawken- Irene Dische

the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 307
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2007

A fictionalized memoir of Elisabeth Rother, a proud Aryan and Catholic who nonetheless has been involved with Jews her whole life which involved her fleeing Nazi Germany. It follows the entirety of her young adult life to beyond her death-thus following the lives of her daughter, Renate and her granddaughter, Irene.

I’m not sure why the conceit of putting herself in the novel-Irene Dische is the granddaughter, an impossible person. But never mind the slight Mary Sue going on.

I just never liked Elisabeth Rother. She was an engaging narrator full of funny opinions and certainly kept the narrative going but I never empathized or liked her. There was never any push for me to look past her anti-Semiticism (despite marrying a converted Jew), racism (refusing to hire colored maids), and utter snobbishness. I mean, she was convincing but I never felt like I needed to read this book for her.

I did however enjoy the generational divide between her and her daughter, Renate. That perspective above all kept me going even though the Irene character irritated me to no end. Elisabeth clearly doesn’t understand the allure of being a pathologist with all her remarks about “the mother working with dead parts!” and as such- it was funny and pretty much applicable to any older/younger family relationships when the child decides to become something not seen as practical (like, say an archaeologist). Clearly there is love and this type of complex relationship is well represented within Rother’s narration.

But strangely enough, it all remained so flat and so I never liked any of the characters. I don’t really know if I could recommend the book.

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