The Force of Things by Alexander Stille
A Marriage in War and Peace

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It is Mr. Stille’s determination to use his skills as a reporter to flesh out his family’s history that lends this book its depth of field and emotional ballast.
-NY Times

Synopsis

A masterpiece of literary memory—a powerful exploration of the intersections of family, history, and memory

"One evening in May 1948, my mother went to a party in New York with her first husband and left it with her second, my father." So begins the passionate and stormy union of Mikhail Kamenetzki, aka Ugo Stille, one of Italy's most celebrated journalists, and Elizabeth Bogert, a beautiful and charming young woman from the Midwest.
The Force of Things follows two families across the twentieth century—one starting in czarist Russia, the other starting in the American Midwest—and takes them across revolution, war, fascism, and racial persecution, until they collide at mid-century. Their immediate attraction and tumultuous marriage is part of a much larger story: the mass migration of Jews from fascist-dominated Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a micro-story of that moment of cross-pollination that reshaped much of American culture and society. Theirs was an uneasy marriage between Europe and America, between Jew and WASP; their differences were a key to their bond yet a source of constant strife.
Alexander Stille's The Force of Things is a powerful, beautifully written work with the intimacy of a memoir, the pace and readability of a novel, and the historical sweep and documentary precision of nonfiction writing at its best. It is a portrait of people who are buffeted about by large historical events, who try to escape their origins but find themselves in the grip of the force of things.

 

About Alexander Stille

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Alexander Stille is the author of Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic, Benevolence and Betrayal, and The Future of the Past. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times.
 
Published February 12, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 385 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Force of Things
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Louisa Thomas on Mar 29 2013

Their relationship was bound up with their age. But it also transcended it. The force of things was strong. The force of people was stronger.

Read Full Review of The Force of Things: A Marria... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Mar 21 2013

It is Mr. Stille’s determination to use his skills as a reporter to flesh out his family’s history that lends this book its depth of field and emotional ballast.

Read Full Review of The Force of Things: A Marria... | See more reviews from NY Times

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87%

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