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Bliss, Remembered Hardcover – July 8, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When American swimmer Sydney Stringfellow arrives at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, she never expects to fall in love with a handsome young German, but she does. When politics separate them, she goes home to nurse her broken heart and meets Jimmy, a kind young American who restores her faith in love and marries her before being shipped off to the Pacific theater of WWII. When Horst shows up on her doorstep, though, Sydney is torn and must decide what she is willing to do for love. Told as a memoir, Deford's newest is entertaining and thought provoking. He has a superb sense of character and period, and readers will at once feel drawn into the turbulent times. The memoir device, while overused in many books, is put to excellent effect, allowing readers to easily identify with Sydney's son and interviewer, Teddy. The surprising twist will catch readers off guard but not leave them feeling cheated. This is a poignant story, utterly charming and enjoyable.
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This book sounds so simple: Sydney Stringfellow, nearing death, sits her son down and tells him about a special, long-ago time of her life. But Deford’s beautifully written novel is a bit more complex than that. It introduces us to two Sydneys, the elderly-but-sprightly woman dying of cancer and the teenage girl, graceful and naive, who decided, against pretty tall odds, that she would swim for her country in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This is one of those novels that defies categorization. There’s romance in it, but it’s not a love story. It’s set, partly, against the backdrop of a world war, but it’s not a war story. There is heartrending tragedy, but it’s not a tragedy. The story doesn’t fully reveal itself until the end, when Deford ties all the threads together, showing us finally what he’s been building before our eyes. This multilayered, finely crafted, and elegantly constructed novel will appeal both to readers of historical fiction and to those who crave any kind of writing that is genuinely inspiring. --David Pitt