Alice Mattison Hilda and Pearl: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780060936938

Hilda and Pearl: A Novel

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9780060936938: Hilda and Pearl: A Novel

To Frances, an only child living in McCarthy-era Brooklyn, her mother, Hilda, and her aunt Pearl seem as if they have always been friends. Frances does not question the love between the two women until her father's job as a teacher is threatened by anti-Communism, just as Frances begins to learn about her family's past. Why does Hilda refer to her "first pregnancy," as if Frances wasn't her only child? Whose baby shoes are hidden in Hilda's dresser drawer? Why is there tension when Pearl and her husband come to visit?

The story of a young girl in the fifties and her elders' coming-of-age in the unquiet thirties, this book resonates deeply, revealing in beautiful, clear language the complexities of friendship and loss.

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About the Author:

Alice Mattison is the award-winning author of four story collections and five novels, including Nothing Is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn. She teaches fiction in the graduate writing program at Bennington College in Vermont and lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

From Publishers Weekly:

Accomplished poet, novelist (Field of Stars) and short-story writer (Great Wit) Mattison adds to her laurels with this quietly suspenseful, psychologically penetrating novel, which is both a perceptive study of adolescence and a dramatic exploration of family relationships. When 11-year-old Frances Levenson finds a pair of baby shoes hidden in her mother Hilda's bureau drawer, she begins to unravel a secret involving her parents, her aunt Pearl and her uncle Mike. Viewed partly through Frances's pre-adolescent consciousness and partly through flashbacks to the early years of the two couples' marriages in the 1930s, the novel also portrays a segment of American society: liberals (socialists, Communists) who supported the doomed anti-Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War, and who were themselves often victims of the McCarthy witch hunts two decades later. The sons of Jewish immigrants, Nathan, Frances's father, and Mike, his younger brother, are opposites: Nathan is an idealistic Brooklyn high-school English teacher with a burning social conscience; Mike, who has changed his surname to Lewis, is a pragmatic court stenographer contemptuous of Nathan's politics but also cowed by his brother's dignity. A seduction, a baby of disputed paternal parentage and a tragic death mark the shifts in family dynamics that paradoxically bring Hilda and Pearl closer, though one is a victim and makes a noble sacrifice and the other is a taker with magic charm. Mattison has a luminous ability to render a preteen's fantasy life and conversation with her peers, conveying Frances's confusion about adult behavior. But it is in depicting the title characters that Mattison excels, evoking in keenly observed prose the animosities, yearnings for intimacy and currents of sexual energy that run between them. Small fireworks of surprise detonate at intervals in this compelling narrative, related by Mattison with disarming simplicity and economy, and with gripping effect.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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