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A Model Childhood (VMC) Paperback – 9 Feb 1983


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (9 Feb 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086068377X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860683773
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gregory J. Pitty on 1 Oct 2012
Format: Paperback
Ultimately a very powerful piece of writing, and one against which all others in the genre need to be measured. A biographical novel with this introductory disclaimer "Anyone believing that he detects a similarity between a character in the narrative and either himself or anyone else should consider the strange lack of individuality in the behaviour of many contemporaries. Generally recognisable behaviour patterns should be blamed on circumstances."

It is not an easy journey, far from it. The language is complex, and the imagery used in the course of a significant and obviously cathartic self-evaluation can sometimes require several re-readings. The text does though become more accessible as the chapters progress, thanks to a more intimate understanding of the character Nelly - Wolf's childhood persona. We are spectators to her torment in her search for meaning, the raging conflict which inhabits her, and more simply, the quickening and increasing of personal experiences as the war came home and the flight into darkness and self-doubt begins. Just how could a childhood world once so stable and so normal be suddenly exposed as an utter lie?

A book requiring time, much time, to absorb and reflect upon the self-analysis which inhabits every line.

A forty-six hour journey; an attempt to discover and exorcise by naming them, the ghosts of the past in her home town of Landsberg. A journey with her younger brother who was confidant, sounding board and witness to events; her husband whose experiences were sometimes paralleled; and her young daughter.

A road-trip. Landsberg, now Gorzow Wielkopolski, is today a rather grubby town with only a few reminders of its heritage. Like much of once was the Eastern Bloc, the Communist system did it few favours, and graffiti covers many walls. A place which harbours many ghosts.

This text is nothing short of remarkable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Longchamps on 4 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Model Childhood is a complex novel, although it isn’t really a novel. The complexity comes from a) the almost ‘stream-of-consciousness’ narrative style, b) the author’s use of the second person point of view (the hardest to write in successfully and, certainly for me, the hardest to read in), and c) the psychological deconstructionism of the subject matter.

All that must be pretty off-putting for a potential reader of this book. But stay with me on this. I don’t like any of those things in a novel, would normally avoid them like the plague; I like writing to be almost undetectable between me as reader, and the characters and their story.

But I don’t think this is a story, or a novel, or even fiction. I think it is a German woman, aged four when Hitler came to power and therefore spending her most formative years in the twisted half-truths of the Nazi regime, trying to work out, forty years later, her memories, her own guilt, and her nation’s guilt. Only if I view it thus can I make sense of it; and as it accords pretty closely with the author’s own circumstances, I think it must be right.

Let’s look at the (second-person) point of view first. ‘It is probable that you’ll remember this overcast, dismal, clammy Sunday morning when you wrote this page.’ The narrator (which I think is the author herself) has persuaded her family to return with her to her childhood home town in the early 1970s. She is addressing her thoughts to herself (which is how she can say, ‘you’ll remember this …’) but also to her mid-teenage daughter Lenka who is beginning to question her parents’ dark past. It took me quite a while to work that out. The first 150 or so pages were hard going; they became much easier after that.
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