Love and Rutabaga: A Remembrance of the War Years

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9780312093303: Love and Rutabaga: A Remembrance of the War Years
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In a memoir of World War II, the author relates how love, which provided spiritual strength, and rutabagas, which provided sustenance, saved her family during the war years

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Wonderfully rendered evocations of life in German-occupied France during WW II, by the daughter of a French mother and a Chinese father. The author was just four when she, along with her mother and young brother, waved goodbye to their diplomat father as he boarded a train that was to take him across Russia to China. Accomando describes how her now-fatherless family left Paris to spend the duration of the war with her maternal grandparents in Rahon, a small provincial town under German occupation. Grandfather Laloy, an intimidating figure, was a distinguished musicologist and reviewer who had been a champion of Debussy and a friend of Stravinsky's; Accomando's Armenian-born grandmother, Nani, was a concert pianist. The children slowly adjusted to irksome changes- -food was rationed; meals were rounded out with the much-hated rutabaga; and eggs and butter were precious commodities--but the family had more pressing concerns as well: An uncle--Andr‚--was in the Resistance; the author's mother acted as a Resistance courier; and various family acquaintances were also involved. When the Germans failed to capture Andr‚, they took away Accomando's aunt, and, for a short time, the family's house was occupied by German soldiers hoping to trap Andr‚--creating a very frightening situation since a typewriter, stencil copier, and short-wave radio were hidden in the house until resourceful Resistance members managed to remove them from right under the soldiers' noses. Meanwhile, news of the author's father was scanty, and the family reunited with him only when, at war's end, he was posted to Turkey and they received permission to join him there. Although recollected perhaps too perfectly--one wonders how Accomando can remember her young life in such vivid detail, including dialogue--nonetheless a compelling story as much about an unusual family as about the vicissitudes of war. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review:

Born in 1937 to a French mother and a Chinese father, Claire Hsu Accomando experienced a bittersweet early childhood growing up in occupied France during the war. Her engaging memoir, "Love and Rutabaga" -- the title refers to the twin sources of her family's salvation -- chronicles the events of her family's life from 1941, when her diplomat father left to take a job in China, until 1945. During these years, Ms. Accomando, her mother and two younger brothers resided in the village of Rahon with her grandparents. Their home, a bedrock of warmth and security, was enlivened by her grandmother's passion for music, stories and beauty. Bustling with family, friends, servants and strangers needing refuge, the household schooled Ms. Accomando in life's hardships. An uncle and a dear friend were dangerously involved in the Resistance; her grandfather died. Yet Ms. Accomando says that the war years were "the happiest of my childhood." With a strong feeling for irony, she writes convincingly from a child's point of view, reconstructing her early years with rich details, full conversations and fascinating stories. -- New York Times, Aug. 29, 1993

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Claire Hsu Accomando
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