Josef and Frederika Seifert made a bad marriage. He so metaphysical, she, a furious frustrated singer, unfaithful within two months of their wedding day. The setting is small-town Germany between the wars; the Seiferts are just those 'ordinary people' who helped Hitler rise, bequeathing their daughter, who tells their story, a legacy of grief and guilt.
... unusual and intelligent ... Amazingly enough, this heavy theme is treated with a light hand ... The text itself is broken up not by the customary salutations and chronology of letters, but by boldface headings; each section is a vignette or a dramatic monologue and the whole novel forms a poetic sequence from which a discourse about origins - psychological, legendary and historic - unfolds ... The novel makes no attempt to resolve the characters' continued ambivalence and moral amnesia. But readers will find in this ambitious, at times brilliant fiction a passionate articulation of a painful and guilt-ridden memory.
Like the title’s hanky fluttering out of a castle window and settling in some mud, this novel’s narrator flickers about time, space, memory, fact, and conjecture in a playful epistolary form, always stuck on the same thing, or landing there ... Waldrop’s writing is full of surprises, in all of her work, and that is absolutely the case here. I never know how a sentence will turn or what will happen next, despite the narrative being, like memory, quite recursive. Honestly, the novel is a joy to read ... a lovely, lovely object.
... gratifyingly complex ... Pitiless and determined, Lucy quotes from newspapers and letters and sketches out her parents’ conversations, dreams, and sexual encounters, despite acknowledging the ultimate opacity of what happened: 'the past is an imposter. It obeys our expectations.' Waldrop’s text makes an art of this painful inquiry. This novel powerfully models the desire, and the moral responsibility, to know one’s history.