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Uncle Rudolf: A Novel Hardcover – February 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part exile's lament and part psychological study, this brief novel by Bailey (Kitty & Virgil, etc.) explores the complicated, intense relationship between a Romanian lyric tenor and his adoring nephew during the years preceding and following WWII. Andrew Petrescu (later Peters) is seven in 1937 when his father-a Romanian debt collector who marries a woman with Jewish blood-finds the situation in Romania increasingly precarious and sends Andrew to live in England with his superbly talented Uncle Rudolf. Introducing Andrew to his freewheeling artistic world, Rudolf becomes the boy's de facto parent, adviser and mentor. The narrative then flashes back to Rudolf's musical education and his lucrative decision to sing commercially popular operettas, a choice that proves costly on a personal level when Rudolf regrets not pursuing a career in serious opera. As Andrew grows up, he becomes increasingly dependent on his uncle, to the extent that his brief marriage fails and he finds himself living vicariously through Rudolf's successes and failures. Bailey's unflinching depiction of Andrew's obsessive, nearly pathological love for his uncle is alternately moving and disturbing, and his gradual revelation of the fate of Andrew's parents adds an element of suspense to the story. The flamboyance of London theater life contrasts strikingly with the melancholia of exile and the horrors of war as Bailey plays masterfully with chiaroscuro in this moody, unsentimental novel.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In February 1937, his father took little Andrei Petrescu from their small Romanian town to Paris, where he put the boy on the first leg of the trip to London. There Rudolf, his father's brother, met him, told him he would henceforth be Andrew Peters, and introduced him to the lifestyle of a wealthy celebrity, for his handsome uncle is a matinee-idol tenor whose forte is that bourgeois middle European theatrical confection, operetta. Andrei is supposedly visiting until his parents call him home, but he never sees them again, and Uncle Rudolf doesn't tell him the whole truth of his situation until he is 18. He grows up in the best circumstances, and Rudolf is devoted to him, but Andrew, though he fathers a son from a marriage that barely outlives the pregnancy, never really leaves the avuncular nest. Moreover, Rudolf thinks himself a failure; he should have sung Mozart and Verdi, not the genre he considers central to the early-twentieth-century's long nationalist nightmare. Seventy and afraid he is becoming senile and incapable of writing Rudolf's biography, Andrew recollects his uncle's and his ever-quieter, intertwined lives. Bailey writes economically, plangently, and with deep cultural penetration, memorably incorporating historic musical figures into Rudolf's story and leaving readers to interpret just what the novel might be saying about anti-Semitism. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312318340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312318345
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,676,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Peterson was born Andrei Petrescu in Romania, and he tells his story at the age of 70. His maternal grandfather was Jewish, and that is enough to imperil the family in 1937 Romania when Codreanu, the founder of the antisemitic Iron Guard, was on the ascendant and violence was already on the rampage. Andrei's father decided to send his seven year old son to England to be looked after by his paternal uncle Rudolf Peterson (born Rudi Petrescu), who had made a name for himself there and in other European capitals as a singer in operettas. Rudolf had seen some time ago that how Romania was becoming increasingly fascist, had become a voluntary exile in London, and had urged his brother and sister-in-law - in vain - to leave "the beastly country" of their birth. (The miasma of antisemitism in Romania had not even disappeared when Andrew revisited his ancestral home after 1989.)

Andrew never saw his parents again, and though he was very comfortable with his beloved Uncle Rudolf in the day-time, his dreams at night were haunted by his absent parents. Rudolf loved his nephew dearly, worked hard to turn him into an Englishman, and tried to protect him from suffering - so it is not until Andrew is eighteen that he learnt of the fate of his parents.

Much of the book, as its title suggests, is a rich portrait of the uncle who was the key figure in Andrew's life: of his ambitions and disappointments, of his relationships with a number of women, of his generosity, of his charismatic, amusing and carefree exterior covering up a deeper melancholia, grief, anger and self-contempt.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on December 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After reading Bailey's "Kitty and Virgil" and "Gabriel's Lament", I found this novel a total disappointment. I suppose it was intended to be charming and sad. To me, it was a slight book (in impact as well as length) which relies on interesting plot devices to make the story readable.
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