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What Remains Paperback – November 1, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"There is the landscape you are given and the landscape that you choose." So reflects 55-year-old Karl 16 years after emigrating from England to America in 1948 with his wife, Julia, and two young sons. Alternating narrative perspectives, the prolific Delbanco (Old Scores) brings together the voices of three generations of German Jews, weaving a history of a family's wanderingDtheir search for a hitching post for "the heart's geography." Karl and his elder brother, Gustave, left Hamburg for London when Hitler rose to power; Julia, Karl's wife, is from a wealthy background in Berlin, and had to cut short her studies when Jews were no longer permitted at university. At the war's end, Gustave and his family decide to stay in England, but Julia urges her young family to the leafy suburbs of Larchmont, N.Y., where she envisions more opportunities for her sons, Jacob and Benjamin. The boys recall their childhood in England, the bomb shelters and air raids interspersed in their memories with the trappings of childhood: a mother's powder puff, strawberry jam, milk chocolate obtained with a ration book. Coming of age between two countries and haunted by a third they do not know, the children are given pieces of the German language as their heritage. Here lies the deeper question of identity that haunts these reflective, lyrical narratives. Where is tradition if expatriation has been forced? What is at the heart of family when the threads of history fly loose? Elegiac and subtle, the book feels shadowed by memoir yet it is never obvious or heavy-handed. In these unhurried family tales, the theme of "who we are" will resonate for discriminating readers, especially those who appreciated Delbanco's recent The Lost Suitcase. Booksellers will enjoy recommending this quietly trenchant novel, which features a haunting, green-tinted jacket illustration that's going to lure browsers. 9-city author tour. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Delbanco offers a richly textured portrait of a Jewish family with artistic and intellectual inclinations. The story encompasses several generations: Elsa, the proud and slightly eccentric matriarch; her sons Karl, who takes over the family business when his father dies, and Gustave, who is more interested in art; Karl's wife, Julia; and their little son, Jacob. Forced to leave their comfortable life in Hamburg when Hitler comes to power, they settle first in London. Not long after the war, Karl moves his family again, this time to America, and he sets up a branch of the family business. This is not a novel about plot, but rather a series of vignettes and impressions, unfolding through multiple points of view, from that of the very young to the very old. Most of the impressions are clustered around the years 1944 through 1946, but they weave back and forth through time, the novel becoming a meditation on the themes of fate, memory, exile, change, age, what sustains, and what fulfills. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 2nd edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446677795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446677790
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,239,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The rise of Hitler forced German Jewish brothers Karl and Gustave to relocate their family to London. After the war ended, Karl, at the urging of his spouse Julia moves across the ocean to America where they raise their two children, Benjamin and Jacob. Gustave chose to remain in London.
In 1964, Karl and his family fly to London on a family visit. Benjamin and Jacob recall life as children in London during World War II when Hitler and his air force sent bomb after bomb trying to devastate the English. Benjamin and Jacob also have memories of Germany, but they are through the eyes of their parents, grandparents, and Gustave. However, as second generation Americans they are beginning the assimilation process and though their grandmother wants to return to pre-Hitler Hamburg, Benjamin and Jacob know that Thomas Wolfe is right as they can never go home again.
WHAT REMAINS is a powerful look at national identity especially for those individuals displaced and forced to flee deadly events in their native homeland. The tale works as readers understand the different outlooks of the three generations. Nicholas Delbanco writes a tremendously deep, thought-provoking tale that relies on the characters to unfold their feelings and motives for their lifestyles. The use of flashbacks by the cast to reflect how each one sees the monumental events that shaped their destiny strengthens a book that will send the audience seeking the author's previous tales (see OLD SCORES and IN THE NAME OF MERCY).

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
This book is exquisite. The story of a family of German Jews, from little Benjamin ("Mister Blister!") and his older brother Jacob (named after his mother Julia's first love, in itself a bittersweet subplot) to Julia, Gustave, Karl, and Grandmother Emma. Everyone has a chance to provide their own narration, and give us their own flashback, after adult Ben returns to present-day England to visit the frail Gustave for what may be the last time.
But "As I Lay Dying" this ain't - the characters provide more than filler dialogue for the same action, over and over, ad nauseum. Each chapter, each character's narrative, stands on its own as a separate story.
Emma provides, for me, the sweetest and saddest chapters in the book. As with all elderly in almost every society, Emma becomes prone to being overlooked, the walking, talking afterthought in the family; while once the matriarch of this strong family,she now finds herself little more than one of the curios that litter the cabinets. However, we find that she is still as young as her memories allow her to be, and longs for the chance to revisit her now-deceased husband in her mind, on the day they were engaged. In the background, all the while, Karl and Julia and the kids prepare for a voyage to America (it is 1948). Only Ben seems to have a capacity for empathy, which his mother's narrative further confirms.
Not since Salinger's Glass family have I found myself falling in love with a string of stories about a single family.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most beautiful, delicately written books, not only about German Jews but of longing and of life, both its conclusions and inconclusiveness. I'm a literary novelist and I was so inspired by this work that I began to read it again at once.
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Format: Paperback
I just want to point out that they have the wrong book up for review here. That is, the reviewers are commenting on the book What Remains by Nicholas Delbanco not this one. I haven't read Delbanco's book but am giving the one star for The Christian Mythology. Christianity isn't mythology. I read a bit of the intro. to that book and Leatherbee uses the same old tired arguments against Christianity. It's good this book is out of print.

As for the reviews of What Remains, it sounds interesting! Leatherbee's book doesn't deserve the acclaim Delbanco's book has received!
Please someone fix the listing.
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