Disclaimer: I received an ARC via a Librarything giveaway.
This book has two disadvantages. The first is that it doesn’t quite have the space to be what it should. The second is that Daniel Mendelsohn’s Lost is what it is going to be compared to.
Goldenberg’s book is part story of her grandparents and part memoir or thought piece. As such, it doesn’t quite succeed at the memoir part. As for the story of her grandparents, one wishes that she had allowed more of their voice instead of telling the reader what her grandfather wrote or her grandmother said. And it isn’t really a detective story, the facts are there.
This isn’t to say the book is not worth reading. Narratives like this are important, especially since the generation that witnessed it is passing away. It is also important to look at the impact of the Holocaust on the children and grandchildren of survivors.
The book does capture, even if briefly, the life in Vienna before and during the invasion of the Germans. It is both a Vienna that had been and what it became. As such it is worth reading. In terms of much sense reflection or connection to current generations – for instance why the family keeps returning to Vienna, there is not much. There are flashes, but the insights are not closely examined. Goldenberg almost seems to be in a hurry to move away from them. Her thinking about her own life versus hat her grandparents suffered may sound trite to some, but there is something more at work there. Though she doesn’t quite reach it, it is still important.