A book can take you far away, in time or in space. With this one G.B.Stern takes us far, accompanying this dynasty for a century, from the napoleonic wars to the aftermath of the Great War, from Vienna through Paris to London (and we complain that times in the 21st century are changing faster then we can keep up!).
To every change the world imposes on the family the skill of the matriarch keeps it united and gets it out from under troubles that might have destroyed it. Migration, adaptation, integration into the new settings. Survival by adaptation might well have been her motto.
A coesive force is she - and successful, until old age and vicissitudes overwhelm her.
Successive generations of outsiders who marry in are absorbed and, although some try to resist her coercion, integrated into the family mold. And in time a new figure emerges, from the confusion of grandchildren, who embodies the qualities and the obstinacy that qualify her to take over, and adapt the role to a new world, to an unrecognisable future.
Where can I place this book on a virtual bookshelf? I think it deserves to stand with A.S.Byatt, and her Childrens' Book; or Doris Lessing and her Four-Gated City. Books to read that visit other times and allow us to feel how change affects us and how adaptation is the only route to survival.
They exhorted me, in flying school fifty years ago, to learn from other peoples mistakes. "You won't live long enough to make them all yourself!)" they said. If we want our grandchildren to survive we, and more importantly they, must learn to read the times we live in and to move on before events overwhelm us.
This book shows how others did so, giving a lesson that justifies the effort taken to read it. But for a fuller account, down load the sample and read the introduction.
A powerful book. And to think - I didn't realise until I finished it - that it was written 90 years ago!