From Publishers Weekly
Ozick's somber latest (after Dictation) pursues the convergence of displaced persons in post-WWII Paris and New York. In the summer of 1952, Bea Nightingale, a divorced middle-aged high school English teacher in New York, has been dispatched by her bullying brother, Marvin, a successful businessman, to Paris to bring home his wayward son, Julian, who turns out to be an ambitionless waiter now married to an older Jewish woman, Lili, who lost her husband and young son in the war. Ozick deftly delineates these fragile lives as they chase their own interpretations of the American dream: the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants, Marvin has remade himself in the WASP mold required of Princeton and his blue-blooded wife; his well-educated but rudderless daughter, Iris, is also on Julian's trail and hungry for the feminist inspiration her Aunt Bea imparts; Julian and Lili grasp each other like a mutual life raft; while Bea herself is intelligent and clear-eyed about everything but her own heart. Unfortunately, Ozick doesn't make a convincing case for all the fuss over Julian, and the perilous intersections this novel sets up derail into murky and, for the reader, frustrating sidetracks. (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* Ozick’s heady fiction springs from her deep critical involvement in literature, especially her fascination with Henry James, which emboldened her to lift the plot of his masterpiece, The Ambassadors, and recast it in a taut and flaying novel that is utterly her own. It’s 1952, and Bea has lived alone for decades after a fleeting marriage, teaching English to street-tough Bronx boys she much admires even as she covers their compositions with red ink. Haunted by her ex, a composer who decamped to Hollywood and made a fortune writing movie scores, Bea is also long estranged from her wealthy brother, Marvin. Yet he asks her to fly to Paris to search for his missing son, Julian, whom he surmises is besotted with the city’s fabled charms. Instead, Julian’s Paris is a dark and merciless place of lost souls because he is in love with a Romanian refugee whose family perished in the Holocaust. Operating in a fugue state brought on by the sudden eruption of deeply buried pain and rage, Bea manages to make bad situations truly disastrous. Ozick’s dramatic inquiry into the malignance of betrayal; exile literal and emotional; the many tentacles of anti-Semitism; and the balm and aberrance of artistic obsession is brilliantly nuanced and profoundly disquieting. --Donna Seaman