When I was younger, I wished I had been born in a concentration camp like my mother, instead of in boring Englewood Hospital. I used to imagine all the prisoners crying mutely with joy while my grandmother lay swallowing her screams so the guards wouldn’t hear.
So writes Deborah Gelb, the teenage daughter of the title character, in her opening chapter.
Deborah’s voice is complemented by that of Ruth Mondschein – Clara’s mother, who recounts her life story to Tommy, a patient at the AIDS hospice where she volunteers. In alternating chapters, Deborah and Mrs. Mondschein depict the lives of three generations of women as both daughter and mother attempt to make sense of Clara’s “melancholia” and the historical events that profoundly affected them all.
While the novel is set in mid-1990s New York and suburban New Jersey, Deborah and Mrs. Mondschein’s stories move through much of the twentieth century, from Vienna and Czechoslovakia, to Spain and Morocco. At the heart of this ambitious novel is the question of why some people are strengthened by adversity – even something as horrific as genocide – and others are defeated by it. Clara Mondschein’s Melancholia examines with bravado and sensitivity how the lingering effects of one of history’s darkest hours – including guilt, anger, loyalty and hope – live on in a single family.
Anne Raeff was born in Massachusetts to Marc and Lillian Raeff, both refugees from World War II. Having traveled extensively, she now resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is co-owner of an Asian furniture store, Two Serious Ladies.
Her short stories have been published in Side Show and Oasis.
Clara Mondschein’s Melancholia is her first novel.
About Anne Raeff
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Published March 27, 2010
by MP Publishing Limited.
History, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, Children's Books.