Susanna Moore The Life of Objects

ISBN 13: 9781455168903

The Life of Objects

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9781455168903: The Life of Objects

[Audiobook CD Library Edition in vinyl case.]

This elegant, haunting novel from the award-winning author of In The Cut and The Whiteness of Bones, set in Germany on the eve of the Second World War, is the story of one woman's journey of self-discovery as a continent collapses into darkness.

Beatrice, a young Irish Protestant lace maker, finds herself at the center of a fairy tale, whisked away from her humdrum life by a mysterious countess to join the Berlin household of the Metzenburgs, an enchanting, aristocratic couple whose vast holdings of art include a priceless collection of lace. But as Beatrice is introduced to the highly rarified world of affluence and art collecting, the greater drama of Germany's aggression begins to overshadow it.

Retreating with Beatrice to their country estate, the Metzenburgs do their best to ignore the encroaching war, until the realities of hunger and illness, as well as the even graver dangers of Nazi terror -- the deportation and murder of Jews, hordes of refugees fleeing the advancing Red Army -- begin to threaten their very existence. While the Metzenburgs become the virtual lord and lady of a growing population of men and women in hiding, Beatrice, increasingly attached to the family and its unlikely wartime community, bears heartrending witness to the atrocities of the age.

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Review:

Guest Review: Sarah Blake on The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore
Sarah Blake is the author of the novels Grange House, and The Postmistress, a New York Times Bestseller and winner of South Africa's Boeke Prize.

Many years ago, I heard Susanna Moore read from her terrifying novel In the Cut. I was riveted by her voice as slowly, steadily, and with unflinching surety, she read aloud the snuffing of a character’s life. As she neared the end, the entire bookstore forgot to breathe. Moore, performing a high wire act if ever there was one, led us coolly but with great sympathy into a world of darkness.

She was, that night, our Beatrice into Hell, and her new novel, The Life of Objects, offers another Beatrice leading us into the specific and largely untold story of the hell endured by the civilian German population caught in World War II. You may think you’ve read all there is to read about this war, but you will not have read anything like this.

“My name is Beatrice Adelaide Palmer,” the novel begins. “I was born in 1921 in Ballycarra, County Mayo, the only child of Elizabeth Givens and Morris Palmer of Palmerston.” Like Jane Eyre, or the heroines of Dickens or Trollope (whom this Beatrice reads avidly), Beatrice Palmer yearns past the borders of her life, into a wider world than her Irish village. And when a beautiful Countess notices Beatrice’s lace handiwork at a ball, and proposes to whisk her away to Berlin to visit her friends the Metzenburgs, possessed of a great house and “the best manners in Europe,” it seems this Beatrice has been touched by fortune. The year is 1938.

When the Countess and Beatrice arrive in Berlin, they discover that the Metzenburgs are in flight to their estate in the country, and though Beatrice is free to return to Ireland, she chooses to join the household as a lacemaker. She stays with them through the war’s beginnings, its long years, and its destructive end—when the Russian Army, murderous, vengeful, and random in its cruel attention, sweeps through the countryside.

Like A Woman in Berlin, this novel describes the horror of being caught in the web of indifferent historical forces. But what is new here, and the source of its power, is the ignorance and simplicity of its young narrator. Beatrice’s unsentimental, precise account of what happens in the last days of the war renders the horrible even more unfathomable. We know with the hindsight of history what it means when a beloved schoolteacher has vanished, or when an American soldier appears in the woods. But in Beatrice’s telling, she does not. And so the war begins to seem like something out of one of Grimm’s horrors. With the force of a folktale, The Life of Objects got me in its grip and has not let me go.

About the Author:

SUSANNA MOORE is the author of the novels The Big Girls, One Last Look, In the Cut, Sleeping Beauties, The Whiteness of Bones, and My Old Sweetheart, as well as two books of nonfiction, Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawaii and I Myself Have Seen It. She lives in New York City.

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