The Fiction Faction - Archive - January-June 2019
Elizabeth Baines

January 2019
Amongst Women
John McGahern

John suggested this 1990 novel which opens as 'once-powerful' ex-IRA commander Moran is declining towards death, and his three adult daughters try to rally him by returning to the farmhouse for 'Monaghan Day', the day of the year when his former IRA lieutenant would once visit after attending the nearby yearly cattle fair, and the two would recount their former republican army glory. The novel then retrospectively charts the years from those times, when the motherless daughters of the house would attend the table, through Moran's courtship of and marriage to a second wife Rose and Rose's saving absorption into the family, the growing and moving away of the daughters, and a serious rift with his youngest child, Michael, who runs away to Dublin and then England to escape a severe beating, a repetition of what had happened with an older son, Luke, before the events being retrospectively related.

Introducing the book, John said he felt it was about the violence of traditional rural Irish lives under the oppression of religion and English colonisation, and the need of young people to escape it (either to Dublin or London). It was also, he said, a study of male attitudes under these conditions. Moran is a broody man with a temper. When Rose enters the household, she notices his children are stilled when he enters a room, watching him for his mood 'like the weather', and if the girls break a piece of crockery they are seriously afraid of his wrath and hide the pieces so he will not know. Rose herself quickly learns that he must be appeased, and takes on the role of pourer of oil on troubled waters, keeping determinedly cheerful for the sake of the children as well as her own. For these reasons, John said he felt that the book was ultimately about war and its dehumanising effects on men.

Ann said she thought it was rather about families, or a specific family. I didn't think there was a real discrepancy here: surely what the book is showing is the chain effect of those outward political circumstances on the families of those men, their invasion into the privacy of the home and the lives of children. This is brilliantly codified by the opening of the novel, in which Moran's daughters, who love him in spite of everything, are actively trying to revive for him his former IRA glory. Moran does indeed bring his mode of military command into the home along with the oppressive aspect of the Catholic Church: although not a church-goer, he will interrupt any household activity by commanding the whole family to drop to its knees and say the rosary.

I commented that there isn't really much of a dramatic story arc in this novel - it really simply traces a now mundane life from middle-aged virility to death - yet somehow it was extremely engrossing. Everyone else agreed - they had all really loved the book, and thought it beautifully written. John noted that the style is in fact very traditional, with a lot of telling rather than showing, which he thought was perhaps why, although he and I had read the book years ago, we hadn't really remembered it - there was perhaps a lack of vividness. This time around I did note a brilliant moment right at the beginning where the narrator bothers to call the yew tree in the garden 'poisonous' - a vivid hint of the poison in Moran's relationship with his family - but I didn't note any other such symbolic moments as I read. John said he felt there was actually a (subsidiary) story arc concerning the progress of Michael, which slightly skews the more generally democratic focus of the novel, and he found Michael more vivid than the rest of the characters. He wondered therefore if the novel were autobiographical and Michael a veiled portrait of the author. He also noted that there is a huge gap in the novel: the narration gives no sense of the dead wife and mother, whereas we all felt that there ought naturally to be, since the novel deals with the feelings and attitudes of all the characters - the elder girls who have taken on her role in the household would surely have a constant memory of her. The much younger Michael is likely to have less memory of her - she must have disappeared from his life at a much earlier age - (and he is the one child who takes to Rose as a mother figure, the older girls treating her more as a sister), and this perhaps reflects the fact that McGahern's own mother died when he was very young, reinforcing the notion that Michael is to some extent a self-portrait.

One point that was made was that this was a world that no longer exists, that with the weakening of the power of the church and membership of the European Union, Ireland is now very different (although John wasn't so sure of this). Nevertheless, we all still found the novel politically and emotionally resonant, indeed impressive, and we had all been very moved.

February 2019
Cassandra at the Wedding
Dorothy Baker

Due to my second stinking cold of the winter, I was absent for this discussion, which I was sorry to be, since I very much enjoyed the book - better, it seems, than most others in the group - and the discussion was clearly an interesting one. John has kindly written up the discussion, and his report follows, with some comments of my own afterwards.

Perhaps first, though, I should say a bit about the book. Published in 1962, it opens as Berkeley University graduate student Cassandra sets out for home in the foot of the Sierra hills and the wedding of her identical twin, Judith. Cassandra sees Judith as her alter ego, and it soon becomes clear that she is struggling psychologically with her sister's imminent marriage. The book is narrated chiefly by Cassandra, but a short yet not inconsequential section is narrated by Judith.


Mark chose this book, and mentioned its solipsism when he put it forward.

Spoilers are required. The title gives the game away a little, it's no surprise that someone gets married, but if you want to come fresh to this book don't read this, or the blurb, or the biographical notes on the author.

At the meeting Mark introduced the book almost with an apology. He admitted he had tried to read it some years earlier. He had quite liked it, but had not reached past 20 or 30 pages. His attitude was that the first section of the book seemed very subtle.

However, the author was well known at the time of publication, 1962. And probably most people reading at the time did know a thing or two about the author, and perhaps came to the book with very different expectations than our own. The book was judged by the group in general to be slow moving, and retrospectively, at least in the first half, too subtle. There is a sense, if you don't recognize the context, and the when and the why of the events, that not much is happening. Later, speaking for myself, I realized how much subtle information was being introduced. It was generally agreed the book was an easy read, too easy in that it was a quick read, making it too easy to miss important information, and did not seem deep.

One of blurbs called the book tragicomic. There was agreement that there are some good one-liners, but it certainly isn't hilarious.

Ann said, bluntly, that she found the book very dated. I suppose I agreed in a sense. It was to me about a strange distant world. There's a grandmother figure with traditional values, and as someone said, to general agreement, the others are rebelling against her - but it's a pretty 'middle-class' rebellion. The father is retired, an ineffectual intellectual, but who also owns what they call a ranch. If it is a ranch it's presumably run and managed by someone else - but perhaps they just mean a ranch house. A couple (from over the border) are living in a gatehouse and function as servants. The main family seemed more English than American. The wife is dead, and he seems to be drifting, and likes an occasional drink. None of them relate to the people in their town, and are like English gentry in this way. Doug said he found all the characters very strange. Someone said one of the main characters is 'nuts' - but others pointed out that all the other characters know this person is nuts.

Doug said the writing was brilliant, but he didn't like it. One member of the group didn't finish it, but said they had wanted to, just didn't have the time. Everyone agreed that this meant missing the best bit.

The book is in three sections, divided between the voices of identical twins Cassandra and Judith. It was agreed that Judith, who comes in late, has 'a real voice', a different more factual voice, and gets on with the story. Whereas Cassandra is self-involved, living in her own head.

There are two outsiders, both doctors, and both, in their own ways, more part of the 'real world', the world outside the family.

Significant things happen, but early on I didn't know they were happening. I don't know much about weddings. I got it that the bride had a white wedding dress, but (spoiler alert) I didn't know that other female guests weren't supposed to wear white, and couldn't see what the fuss was about. Another important event seems to be that a glass gets broken - I still don't know what all that's about. Perhaps they had a set of two dozen and with one broken they'll have to throw them all away.

I imagine this book was well known at the time, and it's useful to know the context. Dorothy Baker was well known, and could be said to be part of the Hollywood elite. She was married to a well-known poet. In 1938 she published Young Man with a Horn (about Bix Beiderbecke, a (real-life) jazz trumpeter, and one of the first famous early white jazz musicians.) This was made into a film starring Kirk Douglas. In 1942 she published a book Trio, that proved too scandalous for the times, and a play based on it, produced by her and her husband, was quickly shut down because of protests. It is in this light, perhaps, that the subtlety of the present book should be viewed. The author was clearly a modern woman, had lived, and knew about the modern world but wrote the book in the early sixties, before the 60s really got started, and perhaps did not want to (again) create too much of a fuss. She died fairly young in 1968.

There was some agreement that the book was interesting, but not all that enjoyable. I said I thought the women in the group might have got more out of it, understood the mores better, but they didn't seem to feel strongly about this.

If you've read this account I don't know whether you might, or might not want to read the book. It is about women's lives. The two women are very different. These women could exist today, though, as someone said, the characters reactions, and their society in general, would have been very different.

One member, Jenny, said she thought it was clear from very early on what was going to happen - quite the opposite of my own reaction. This certainly isn't a gentle book in the end. When the new husband comes in towards the end there are some very dramatic and peculiar goings on...


EB: I have to say that I do agree with the rest of the group that the book (perhaps, as John says, because of the author's previous troubles) may be too subtle for its own good. I too missed some of the clues early on in the novel as to what was propelling Cassandra, thus missing some of the subtext, so that conversations and events seemed more mundane than I could see in retrospect they were meant to be, and nothing much seemed to be happening. I missed a very significant clue on the second page when Cassandra says that the bridge she can see from her Berkeley window 'took on the appeal of a bright exit sign in an auditorium that is crowded and airless'. Since up to this point she has talked, in a zippy, witty tone, only about leaving early for her sister's wedding, I took this to mean she just wants to get out of Berkeley to the wedding as soon as possible, and even though in the next few lines she says 'my guide assures me I'm not a jumper; it's not my sort of thing', it didn't occur to me that she is suicidal. The realisation only came to me later, and when it did her behaviour seemed much more explicable, and she seemed a more sympathetic character. (I don't think this is plot-spoiling, as I'm sure the author intended us to realise this from the start.) In this context, the deliberate (and dangerous) smashing of the glass by Cassandra that John mentions is understandable, and the fallout of the incident indicative of the push-me-pull-you relationship between the sisters that is at the heart of the book. With reference to this last, I disagree with John that the book is about anything so anodyne as 'women's lives'. As I see it, it is rather about the more unusual symbiotic relationship between a particular pair of biologically identical yet psychologically different twins, and their difficulty in achieving individuation in adult life.

March 2019
A Far Cry from Kensington
Muriel Spark

This will be a short report, as there was a unanimously positive verdict from our group (no argument to report), and it's a fairly light read which however we all enjoyed immensely.

It's the first-person retrospective account, given in the 80s (when the book was published), of a time in the 50s when narrator Nancy Hawkins was a young publisher's assistant living in Kensington lodgings alongside an assortment of odd-ball and interesting tenants. Although only twenty-eight years old she is referred to as 'Mrs Hawkins' by everyone, due to her status as a war widow, her comfortable physique, her comfortingly straightforward attitude and her tendency to give wise advice. Partly due to her straightforwardness, however, and partly due to her decision, in the course of the novel, to rebel against this profile and lose weight, her home and work life become entangled, in a plot which takes on something of the whodunnit.

We all agreed that the plot (which it would be egregious to give away here) was quite preposterous, but none of us minded in the least, as the delight of the novel was in the voice and personality of the narrator (and, indeed the advice she gives), the wonderful elegance and economy of Spark's prose style (it's a shortish novel, and people marvelled at what she had managed to pack into its pages), Spark's wit, and the evocative portrayal of a world which has gone, some characteristics of which however linger on in modern publishing. (At one point a publisher interviewing Mrs Hawkins tells her: " 'Yes, many of our staff here are in fact fairly interested in books.' ")

Although we deemed the book to be light, we did note that among all of this drollery and outrageous plottery, Spark does touch on some serious issues: beyond the central theme - which is literary pretension - bubble McCarthyism, the status of Polish immigrants in Britain after the war, illegitimate pregnancy, and poverty and the impact of the welfare state and free education.

April 2019
The Buddha of Suburbia
Hanif Kureishi

Once again I'm afraid it's a while since we had this discussion, and a lot has happened to me in the meantime (both on a day-to-day-living level and with regard to writing), so as I begin this report I'm expecting my memory to be hazy.

What I remember most distinctly is that Trevor, who suggested this book, talked and talked about how much he loved it, and we were all swept up by his enthusiasm until later one or two caveats emerged. Set in seventies south London (and later, west Kensington), it's the first-person narrative and coming of age story of Karim, the son of an Indian father and an English mother, and his negotiation through a changing family situation and the changing mores of the time as his father leaves his mother for another woman, his life becoming divided between three family houses, and he tries to find his way in the world as an actor and playwright.

We all agreed with Trevor that the prose was wonderfully vivid and witty, the characters brilliantly drawn, some with searing harshness and others with touching compassion. Trevor spent a lot of time recounting the particular situations and characters that had tickled him, and we all fell in with this, and there wasn't really a lot of objectively critical discussion for some time. Then I said that I didn't feel there was much of a story arc (although I didn't particularly mind that), and others agreed, and someone said that that was perhaps linked with the fact that the ending rather petered out (with which others also agreed), without any real conclusion. I note that some critics have seen the book as a picaresque adventure, but that somehow wasn't how it struck me, perhaps because there really wasn't that sense of striking out and away into the world that tends to characterise picaresque novels - Karim is very much embedded in the communities that already surround him at the start - his own cross-cultural family, and their artistic and hippy-bourgeois neighbours, who indeed push and aid Karim into the theatre. (And indeed the title refers to Karim's father whose activities and behaviour set in motion the course of events for Karim.)

Ann noted the amorality of the book (which is not simply sexual - Karim doesn't have much of a conscience about anything for much of the time), and I said that I thought that that was a pretty typical attitude of the period. Others demurred, and reminded me about the saying that if you remembered the sixties you weren't actually there. This is true of course, but I do think it was an aspiration of the seventies, that attitude of overthrowing all the old moral shackles, by which many people tried to live their lives, however unsuccessfully, and that the book brilliantly captures that.

At this point Mark, who had been unusually quiet, spoke up. He said that although he had had the very same mixed parentage as Kureishi - and indeed has the same name - he simply couldn't identify with the experience depicted in the novel. Growing up in north Manchester, at a later date, he had experienced the kind of racial abuse that seems only to glance at Karim, and none of the ready social acceptance and mobility, and we all came to the conclusion that the book really only depicts the cultural particularity of London at that time.

Ann (I think) also commented that the book was very apolitical - which I thought was another aspect of the insularity of the hippy attitudes of the time, though I don't think people were very convinced.

And that's all I can remember, I'm afraid.

May 2019
The Easter Parade
Richard Yates

Warning: plot spoil.

We all loved Richard Yates's first novel Revolutionary Road, which we read not long after this American writer, contemporary with Updike, was rescued from obscurity and republished in this country. As a consequence, three members of the group, John, Mark and Trevor, went on to read this, his later novel, the story of the lives of two sisters, the daughters of divorced alcoholic parents, a weak father and a flighty mother. Ever since, whenever Yates has come up in conversation, Mark and Trevor have praised it, suggesting that it's even better than Revolutionary Road, so last month I suggested it for our group discussion. (However Trevor didn't make the meeting, and there were only five of us there to discuss it.)

I did find it a compulsive read. There is something about Yates's prose, elegant yet direct, his way of getting straight to the heart of things and pushing on economically through time, that makes you read quite breathlessly, eager to know how things will turn out. As I said to the group, it's prose to die for, as is Yates's stunning facility of empathy. The only trouble was, ultimately I found it profoundly depressing - at which Ann nodded firm agreement.

The novel begins with this stunning statement: 'Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life, and looking back it always seemed that the trouble began with their parents' divorce.' This is followed by an extremely touching, indeed moving, portrayal of the two little girls on one of their infrequent visits to their father in New York, a headline writer for The Sun newspaper, and being shown by him around his workplace. Afterwards:

As they walked out across City Hall Park in the spring sunshine he held them both by the hand. They both wore light coats over their dresses, with white socks and black patent-leather shoes, and they were nice-looking girls. Sarah was the dark one, with a look of trusting innocence that would never leave her; Emily, a head shorter, was blond and thin and very serious...
'... the Sun's the best now, right?' Sarah said.
'Oh no, honey; the Sun isn't really much of a paper.'
'It isn't? Why?' Sarah looked worried.
'Oh, it's kind of reactionary.'
'What does that mean?'
'It means it's very conservative; very Republican.'
'Aren't we Republicans?'
'I guess your mother is, baby. I'm not.'
He had two drinks before lunch...

The book then traces in linear fashion, from the perspective of the younger Emily, the two very different subsequent lives of the sisters - Sarah's marriage to a man who will turn out to have beaten her, and Emily's own journey through relationships with one man after another, neither life ending well, as the first sentence states.

Mark was astounded that Ann and I, and John who agreed with us, should find the book so depressing. Weren't we uplifted by the wonderful prose, he wanted to know? Somehow we weren't. This book is less satirical than Revolutionary Road (and therefore has less of the objective humour and tonal bounce), and it also lacks the same dynamic story arc, a point with which John strongly agreed. It seemed simply an extremely linear exposition of that first sentence, with each relationship of Emily's failing in more or less the same way that the previous had. I do agree that the depiction of each relationship was compelling, but I found that they added up to an overall flatness and air of predictability, and I could sense the author's own pessimism and sadness coming off the page like a miasma. (The events and characters are closely connected to those of the author's own life, as Mark acknowledged.)

Jenny said that she really liked the book, and defended it with the argument that many people do indeed have sad lives. I said that that's OK if all you expect of literature is for it to replicate life, but surely you expect it to do more than that, and once again Mark expressed the view that this book does indeed do more through its wonderful prose and empathy. Jenny also said, backed up by Mark, that she didn't see the ending as depressing anyway: that the book ends on a note of hope when Emily is taken in by the caring nephew who seems to be the one strong and positive character to have emerged from a devastatingly dysfunctional family. For me, though, having followed Emily through her aspirations (and brief successes), her need to be rescued in that way was utterly sad (and the rescue didn't, honestly, ring all that true for me).

Everyone agreed with Mark that, as in Revolutionary Road, Yates's ability to empathise with women is stunning, and his depiction of Emily's feelings and sensations during her first sexual encounter is almost miraculous in its truthfulness. I felt reluctant to say what I did next (but did): as a woman writer, I couldn't help wondering, however, whether the admiration in which Yates is held is due to his ability to empathise with women while at the same time keeping something of an objective distance (which as a man, as Mark said, he inevitably would). A woman writer would be more likely to tackle the women's viewpoints with more interiority - ie to make the reader share the experiences more closely (indeed I think I probably would), and would consequently perhaps be less admired. John jumped in and compared this book to Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding, which the group discussed recently, in which Cassandra's experience is depicted right from inside her head. Ann had strongly disliked that book,just as she had strongly disliked the very interior Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (which we also discussed), and she said now that she did indeed prefer the more objective empathy of Yates to that of Baker or Ferrante. John commented that in fact it made Yates's book, written in the seventies, more traditional than that of the sixties Baker novel. The book is also more traditional, he said,in the way that it begins at the beginning of the women's lives and follows them through in a straight, linear fashion, with a kind of steady accretion. By comparison the Baker plunges you straight away into a crisis moment and we have to pick up the history that led to it retrospectively. Most modern novels operate in this way, and indeed most written in that era. This may, John mused, account for the fact that Yates's career was eclipsed by those of writers like Updike.

Ann now wondered whether The Easter Parade is in fact anachronistic. The sisters are children in the nineteen-thirties and Emily would have been embarking on her serial affairs in the late nineteen-forties and fifties, behaviour which seems more likely in the era during which the book was written, the seventies, when the pill became widely available, than then. We women also felt that there was a huge omission in that after Emily's first sexual encounter, seduction by a soldier who, without having even told her his name, immediately disappears, she does not worry for a moment that she's pregnant, a fear that we felt would have been routine at that time, and a fate that would have been utterly devastating for a woman about to go to university as Emily is.

This led on to a much wider discussion about the past difficulties for women that some members had discovered young people now find hard to believe: the fact, for instance, that before 1999 a woman getting pregnant would have to leave her job since there was no statutary maternity leave (before 1944 a professional woman would have lost her job simply by getting married), and as late as the eighties women couldn't get mortgages without the guarantee of a father or husband. We wondered therefore if, even in the nineteen-seventies, Yates, writing basically autobiographically, had been working to update his material in a way that perhaps doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

We pondered the title, which as we read we found a little puzzling, since the Easter Parade, in which elder sister Sarah takes part with her new beau (later husband), occurs only near the start of the book and is a moment of promise and hope that is very much missing thereafter. However, that moment reappears in the form a newspaper photo of the event that Sarah has saved, a poignant and sad reminder of that lost hope and promise, making the title thus quite bitterly ironic.

June 2019
The Street of Crocodiles
Bruno Schultz

When people arrived for the meeting to discuss this book, they confronted Jenny, who had suggested it, by laughingly telling her that she had some explaining to do.

We all admitted to never having read anything quite like it before, finding it puzzling, even confounding, yet for some of us it was fascinating and compelling. In fact it was Jenny who seemed to like the book least, although Clare said she had given up on it and hadn't finished it.

Billed in blurbs as the work of perhaps the greatest Polish writer between the two wars, it's a story cycle set in Schultz's home town of Drogobych, and while clearly steeped in his own boyhood memories, is anything but realist: the whole thing is like a dream in which logic is defied and things transmute: rooms in houses are forgotten, birds fly across ceilings, a bicycle rises up into the sky and a man is turned into an electric bell. A key figure in the book is the father of the narrator, the owner of a fabric and tailoring store, who, after abandoning his store and retiring to his bed and suffering unidentified agonies (seemingly physical and metaphysical) embarks on a series of apparently crazy or fantastical projects - hatching exotic birds' eggs in the attic, corralling the housemaid and the seamstresses to listen to treatises on the souls of tailer's dummies (and other matter usually considered inanimate), and dabbling in the new phenomenon of electricty by persuading a relative to give up his body to become an electric commodity. Meanwhile he skulks in cupboards, jumps up onto pelmets and lies on the floor to watch cockroaches, finally appearing to become like one himself. At one point it appears that he has died, only for him to pop up later in another chapter/story with another scheme.

I said that, since the main protagonist is the narrator as a child, what the book is mediating is the pschology of childhood, which doesn't create the demarcations between reality and fantasy in the way that adult thinking does. This I think is why the book is so vivid - we all agreed that it had stayed with us. It really does have that dream-like wonder with which children apprehend the world. There is constant anthropomorphism - window blinds and shadows 'brood', weeds 'luxuriated quietly, glad of the interval for dreams'. I said that initially I had found this naif, but had come to feel that, again, it was a replication of a child's perspective, which doesn't differentiate so strongly between the animate and the inanimate. The book, as John said, is also about memory (and presumably its fantastical, dream-like nature). At one point the narrator says '...even at the time, I could not tell whether these pictures were implanted in my mind by [the housemaid] Adela's tales, or whether I had witnessed them myself.' One story justifying the notion that Schultz was specifically and consciously interested in psychology is 'Nimrod', an exploration, which I found exquisite, of the developing consciouness of a puppy that is brought to the house - though, in spite of its being more realist than the other stories, Jenny didn't like this either.

Ann however suggested that the book perhaps represented a different way of thinking and seeing the world now lost to us, and which survived longer in Eastern Europe, less influenced by Enlightenment rationalism than western Europe. For this reason she found the book fascinating, as well as for the picture it painted of the conditions of living in Eastern Europe in the twenties and thirties - the boiling hot summers and the dreary snow-filled winters - and their psychological effect on the population. Schultz is quite explicit about that effect - 'Came the yellow days of winter, filled with boredom'; 'the old thick trunk of summer continues by force of habit to produce and from its moldered wood grows these crab-days, weed-days, sterile and stupid' - and about the fact that his father's schemes were an effort to triumph over them:
'The affair of the birds was the last colourful and splendid counteroffensive of fantasy which my father. that incorrigible improviser, that fencing master of imagination, had led against the trenches and defenseworks of a sterile and empty winter.'
I said that I had read an academic paper that took this further, arguing that the book was about longing for the transcendence that art gives an artist, and that the father's initial agonies are those of the failed artist (who can't transcend himself), and his schemes his doomed attempts to do so. Ann commented that this is exactly the kind of book that academics like to write about, open as it is to multiple interpretations.

John, as usual, pointed out the aspects of the book that we now find politically incorrect - the 'ragamuffins' hanging around the square, the descriptions of the resident shop assistants with their 'ugly' feet, the snobbish distaste for the more demotic parts of town and the 'scum' who lived there, and the 'thick, black blood' of its female shop assistants with 'cockroachy looks' whose 'overintense colouring' seemed to leave 'a dark trail of freckles, a smudge of tobacco, as does a truffle with its exciting, animal smell'. John found it strange that as a Jew Schultz should express such basically racist sentiments, but others noted that he was very much an assimilated Jew.

Jenny, who seemed to feel that she needed to justify her suggestion of this book, said she had been made curious about it by reading of the fate of its author, and proceeded to tell us about it. Schultz was an art teacher in the local school, who apparently hated his job and had begun writing these stories piecemeal and sending them to a female correspondent, who urged publication. When the war began and he was confined to the ghetto, he sent further writings into the care of another, but they were subsequently lost in the Holocaust. While in the ghetto, he was 'protected' by a Gestapo officer for whom he had painted a mural. Unfortunately this Gestapo officer shot dead a Jew protected by another officer, and one day in 1942 when Schultz was on a pass into the Aryan quarter, that other officer shot him dead in revenge.

Somebody in the group commented that the author's story was more interesting than the book, but some of us said that, whatever we had thought of the book at first, we were very glad to have read it. It has certainly stayed with me and become part of my mental landscape.


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