January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest's maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family
Powerful, meticulously imagined ... The Postcard (translated into a lucid and precise English by Tina Kover) takes its readers on a deep dive into one Jewish family’s history, and, inextricably, into the devastating history of the Holocaust in France ... If Berest’s search for her identity and for her family history feels, at times, as long and difficult for the reader as it was for Berest herself, that effect is of the essence: In a sense, it’s the point ... Powerful ... Contains a single grand-scale act of self-discovery and many moments of historical illumination
Powerful ... Equal parts family history, detective story, inquiry into what it means to be Jewish even when you’ve never been to a Seder, and sobering reminder that anti-Semitism is an ever-present blight ... Smoothly translated from the French ... Ms. Berest has done her research, artfully weaving grim facts and figures into her family history.
A powerful exploration of family trauma, of 'psychogenealogy,' or 'cellular memory', transmitted in the womb or down the generations ... Berest acknowledges that she has blind spots, and some of her evocations of Jewish life seem, at best, shaky; at worst, reliant on stereotypes of men with sidelocks and tzitzits. Occasionally, issues are introduced in the translation — on the whole fluid and engaging — that are not her fault at all ... What kept me engaged, despite these issues, is not the question of whether Anne will solve the mystery but how she goes about trying to ascertain the unascertainable. This is, after all, why we read: to understand that which we may not ourselves have experienced.