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The Emmeline Papers (The Sara Stories) Kindle Edition
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Upon the death of Emmeline’s husband, Mac flies to London to deal with Emmeline’s estate, hoping to sell the house as quickly as possible and return to Canada. Fate, however, has other plans and after a dramatic turn of events, Mac’s son, Bernie, and his boyfriend Erik, together with some of the other familiar characters, will end up joining Mac in Emmeline’s Fitzroy Street home.
Although a common thread in all the Sara stories - and really in all of MDG’s work - is the realisation of a creative impetus, loss is the central theme of the collection’s fourth novel. The diaries are Emmeline’s way of preparing herself to die before her much younger husband, just as the story’s living protagonists prepare themselves to face a tragic loss of their own. Where the first two books in the Sara Stories feel almost cozy against their heymishe (I’ve learnt my yiddish) universe, it is fair to say that The Emmeline Papers shatters the idyll and takes a turn for the very sombre, culminating in the eventual death of a major character.
As ever, MDG’s writing is measured, his paragraphs brimming with emotion that never descends into melodrama; he tells us only what we need to know, stopping where other writers would exploit a reader’s emotional investment. In this respect, the Sara Stories are always refreshingly clickbait-free, steering clear of content that might please a reader but not necessarily move the story forward, with sketched out sex scenes that then subtly fade to black.
Like its predecessors, The Emmeline Papers is steeped in everything Jewish, with Yiddish terms scattered through the novel (a glossary is helpfully provided at the beginning). Partly set in London, this novel also has a particular British flavour, thanks to Emmeline’s distinct - and colourful - language and the meticulously researched settings (an Author’s Note at the end highlights which historical details were accurate and where some creative liberties were taken instead).
Again, like the first two books in the Sara’s Stories, The Emmeline Papers is a pleasure to read, combining a compelling story and an ensemble of unforgettable characters, beautifully delivered in the author’s trademark evocative style. Heartbreaking but still uplifting, The Emmeline Papers is a story full of soul from an author who never disappoints.
In the beautifully rendered third book, “The Emmeline Papers,” in his acclaimed “The Sara Stories” series, author Mark David Gerson echoes and weaves this sentiment seamlessly from beginning to end in the lives of each memorable character. Gerson’s impeccably detailed novels following a Montreal Jewish family’s intricately overlapping relationships over the course of several decades all feature richly drawn characters who he deftly introduces and reintroduces as their various stories take center stage in each book.
It is always a surprise whose voice or voices will emerge to lead the newest installment in this evocative series, but what never varies or waivers is the author’s loving regard and respect for his characters and his ability to paint them in vivid yet nuanced tones and shadings, revealing his own deep connection to the artistic and literary worlds in which his characters move and play out their remarkably poignant lives.
Readers who’ve followed The Sara Stories from the first to the second books will recognize most of the cast in this continuing chronicle, with formerly secondary—and some new--characters now inhabiting the spotlight. Readers will also recognize Gerson’s gifts for creating a warmly intriguing and inviting world and for telling stories that manage to be both heart wrenching and life affirming. For this latest, loveliest read, pour a glass of fine wine, put on your favorite classical CD—and this time, keep a box of Kleenex handy. You’ll be visiting with new and old friends you’ll be reluctant to leave.
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