Gutcheon’s newest novel spans most of the 20th century, following the life of Annabelle Sydney Brant, her parents, and to some extent, her children. We also follow the story of the rescue of the Danish Jews, as Sydney’s husband Laurus is a Danish musician doing war work on Denmark’s behalf in London. Laurus’s mother is Jewish, and his family is amongst those at risk when the Nazis plan to round up all Danish Jews on Rosh Hashanah in 1943.
Sydney’s mother does not much care for her daughter, making Sydney’s childhood, particularly after her father’s death, a less than happy one. She and her mother spend most of the year in Cleveland, but this book focuses on the summers spent in Dundee, Maine. Through this geographical lens, we see changes in society, particularly that of the well-to-do, from the 1920s through the end of the century. After the war and a separation of several years, Sydney and her husband find they do not have as much in common as they initially seemed to. Laurus is the most engaging character in the book, and the extended section that takes place in Denmark during World War II is the most vivid. The actions of Laurus’s sister and brother, and those of many other Danes who are reacting to the increasingly hostile Nazi régime, are inspiring and heroic.
Better editing would have helped this book. Blunders and missteps kept pulling me out of the story, particularly in the first few chapters. In the end, though, I was glad that I persevered.