Mamie was only eleven when the Künstlers escaped Vienna in 1939. They made their way, stunned and overwhelmed, to sunny, surreal Los Angeles where they joined a colony of distinguished Jewish musicians, writers and intellectuals also escaping Hitler. Now, faced with months of lockdown and a willing listener, Mamie begins to tell Julian the buried stories of her early years in Los Angeles: her escapades with eminent émigrés like Arnold Schoenberg, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Mann. Oh, and Greta Garbo. While the pandemic cuts Julian off from the life he knows, Mamie's tales open up a world of lives that came before him. They reveal to him just how much the past holds of the future.
Cathleen Schine has brought her gentle, deft touch and sparkling, often sardonic wit to warm and moving novels of family, love, and identity ... Fairy-tale elements, literary references, and mythological allusions are rife in Schine’s work, but she wears her erudition lightly and blends romance and realism in a distinctively readable style ... Schine depicts the inner lives of Mamie and Julian equally deftly, and transitions effortlessly between their two perspectives ... A tender family story, but it is also a profound meditation on the nature and power of storytelling, inheritance, and legacy, the malleability and perdurability of memory.
Diverting ... Schine’s delight in language is contagious — she offers up words like baubles, turning them this way and that to catch the light ... Künstlers in Paradise is...an invitation to leave the familiar behind.
Historical and contemporary fiction collide satisfyingly ... Contrasting the wartime excesses in Hollywood with privation in Austria, Mamie and Julian liken COVID-era isolation to the sense of exile so many faced when they fled Europe. Schine’s admirers will be enthralled, as will fans of Nancy Thayer and Elin Hilderbrand.