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Reading Claudius: A Memoir in Two Parts Hardcover – August 4, 2015
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“This fine book contains moments of emotion so pure that in the end, we too fall in love with the writer’s past.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[Caroline] Heller plunges us lovingly and convincingly into [a] lost world.”—The Boston Globe
“Caroline Heller writes with both honesty and delicacy. I was particularly enthralled by her finely drawn portrait of prewar Central Europe: a lost world whose memories are inestimably valuable and fiercely beautiful but which, without accounts like this, would fade forever.”—Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
“Reading Claudius is much more than a work of riveting personal history. It is a feat of passionate, radical integrity. Caroline Heller has wedded the greatest level of care in her scholarship to an even deeper form of search: that in which imagination becomes not only an act of love but an instrument of truth.”—Leah Hager Cohen, author of No Book but the World and The Grief of Others
“A deeply felt and deeply thought memoir, it manages to unearth a whole lost world with aching tenderness and regret.”—Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head
About the Author
Caroline Heller is the director of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Educational Studies at Lesley University, where she is also a professor in the graduate school of education. She lives in Boston with her family.
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I have read a lot about the Holocaust and WWII, but never have I had such a clear and intimate look at the life and culture of the pre-war intellectual communities such as this one in Prague. This cafe/salon society included a rich gathering of musicians, philosophers, writers, physicians and artists. Heller brings this period, and her parents circle in particular, into sharp focus. I can taste the chocolate cake slices, smell the strong coffees, hear the poetry readings and the late night philosophical discussions that search for meaning in an orderless world. I can see the young lovers as they swim in a nearby lake on a hot Sunday afternoon, and feel their tension as news and events from beyond their cloistered world begin to intrude.
As "A Memoir in Two Parts", the book also includes Heller's own intimate story as the daughter of Holocaust survivors coming of age in suburban Chicago in the 1950's and 60's. Besides being a wonderful book to read (I couldn't put it down), Reading Claudius is an important book that captures a moment in history that is now gone, but that we must not forget.