On her 40th birthday, Eve gets a tattoo of the number 500123 on her wrist, a copy of one Eve has seen on a nameless woman in a photograph taken at Auschwitz in 1944. A non-Jew's bizarre attempt to decipher the reasons for the Holocaust, Eve's tattoo becomes a stigma that will estrange her from her lover and the facile, fashionable world that was once her natural habitat. "Compassionate and informed."--New York Times Book Review.
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A novel of strong ideas by Prager (a story collection, A Visit From the Footbinder, 1982) that's let down by characters with less- than-riveting credibility. For her 40th birthday, New Yorker Eve, increasingly aware of her fellow-citizens' ``compassion fatigue,'' decides to have the number of a female Holocaust victim, seen in an old photograph, tattooed on her wrist. This memento mori, which Eve compares to the MIA bracelets that she and her friends used to wear, will (she hopes) provoke questions; keep the woman's memory alive; and generally raise consciousness about the Nazis' treatment of women. Eve's action upsets her French lover, Charles, who now reveals that he's actually Jewish and not Catholic as she had supposed. When Eve refuses to have the tattoo removed, Charles moves out. Soon Eve is busy telling stories about Eva, the victim, to anyone who asks, though it's a somewhat select group. This Eva has many incarnations: from a Jewish mother and her baby trying to hide to a Catholic social-worker horrified by the Nazis' treatment of the handicapped and mentally ill. Each incarnation represents some aspect of Nazi policies, which Eve has been reading up on. An accident in which her tattoo is covered by stitches provides the catharsis. Eve finds out to whom the number really belonged; Charles returns; and she finally feels that the experiment was worthwhile. A provocative theme, and the individual Eva stories are good; but Eve and her friends are a very wooden group, whose stagy conversations and banal apercus trivialize the novel's underlying premise. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.Review:
Eve has always felt fear about the Holocaust. Her readings gave her more questions than answers: How had Hitler come to and remained in power? What was the role of women under his reign? Eve worries that when the last Holocaust survivor dies so will the memory. On her fortieth birthday she has her arm tattooed with the number of an Auschwitz victim, a woman in a picture who reminds Eve of herself and whom she names Eva. The man Eve loves is appalled by the tattoo and wants her to have it removed, but she can't; it has taken on its own meaning. When people ask about the tattoo Eve makes up stories about Eva, and in these stories she finds answers to her questions. In Eve's stories, Eva becomes at different times, a Red Cross nurse, a poor German woman, a nun with commitments to a power higher than the Third Reich. As a gynecologist performing an illegal abortion, Eva "was in the middle of the curettage when the Gestapo started pounding on the door. She gestured to Heidi [her assistant] to sit quietly and do nothing while she calmly and methodically finished up just as they smashed in the door glass." All these Evas suffered at the hands of Hitler; it didn't matter if they supported, were indifferent, or opposed him, he took their lives. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith
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