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The Secret [Paperback]

Eva Hoffman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Review

‘A serious, intelligent, psychological novel which will enhance her reputation for wise words gracefully expressed’ -- Financial Times

‘Hoffman questions the notion of identity and conducts an exploration into the special bonds formed and broken in mother-daughter relationships…Gripping’ -- The Times

‘Intriguing and deeply sinister…Compelling in both its cool intelligence and its insistent moral questioning’ -- Guardian

‘The futuristic world is imagined with rigour, and is compellingly convincing. This is a sophisticated and articulate fable’ -- Scotland on Sunday

‘With a shrewd regard for language and gesture, Hoffman teases out the tell-tale signs of an alienated soul…' -- Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A magnificent debut novel from the acclaimed author of Shtetl, Lost in Translation and Exit into History. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

A magnificent debut novel from the acclaimed author of Shtetl, Lost in Translation and Exit into History. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eva Hoffman was born in Krakow, Poland, and immigrated to America at the age of thirteen. The recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Award and an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and letters, she currently lives in London --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Of course, I’ve always had a secret. Have I always known it? I suppose I have in a way – in the way that children know such things. That is to say, I knew and didn’t know. But could I have been called a child, was I real, an authentic child?

I had no doubt I was, of course. Which perhaps proves the point. You are what you think you are, aren’t you? Especially in the most essential matters, who on earth s to judge the nature of your nature, of your character, of your innermost self, expect you, the subject, yourself? And yet. And yet.

Indeed, I felt I had an almost ordinary childhood. Blessedly ordinary, it might have been, given that I was growing up at a time when ordinariness was becoming the most exceptional condition, achieved only by the unusually lucky, or the unusually sane few.

Does that mean she was unusually sane, my mother? The possibility is unpalatable, but entirely plausible. She certainly gave the impression of being perfectly normal – and, after all, how do we judge others except through impressions, through appearances, largely or minutely observed? Even if we don’t judge ourselves in such ways at all. But then my mother had an exceptional talent for stimulation.

We lived in a small college town not far from Chicago, in a rambling wooden house with two porches, a leafy yard and pleasant, eclectic clutter inside, spanning in styles from Victoriana to virtual trompe l’oeil. From the outside it was the kind of place you hardly see in the movies anymore, on the grounds that it’s unrealistic. Which I suppose it is. Midwestern towns like the one we lived in have been on their way to extinction for a long time now.

Still, my mother wasn’t exactly a provincial pastoralist. She had lived in New York before I was born, but after ten years of working hard and riding high she became sick and tired of its aggressions, greed, false sophistication and filth.

She found the ever muggier, pollution-spewed summers wearying. She’d been a highly paid investment consultant, but by the time she left Manhattan she was more than ready to give it all up. At least, that is how she told it to me much later, when I was old enough to understand such things. As long as she was striving and testing herself, she thrived on the no-holds-barred competitiveness of New York’s financial world, on its adrenalin-driven energies and high stakes. But once she reached a certain point on the career ladder- it was not the glass ceiling, she had broken through that-her work went utterly flat on her. The meaning had gone out of it as if by evil magic, turning to dross and dust. That’s what she said, I remember. She needed something else-a new purpose, a more primal, deeper connection to life. And my mother wasn’t someone who was easily prevented from getting what she wanted. Or at least from going after it. Like so many of her generation, she was willful and proud of being so. She thought the world belonged to her and that she could only improve it. She had the right ideas, the right values and the right strategies. It followed that she should have what she wanted.

She had me. I became her new project, her great enterprise. She came to the Midwest, she told me, partly because she thought it would be a good place for a child to grow up. There were still the elements here, there was still nature. She thought that was terribly important, no matter how uncomfortable or excessive the elements got sometimes, what with the deadly cold and the deadly hot temperatures, which drove people into subterranean corridors and into their own, carefully controlled environments. She’d been involved in some kind of political movement in t=her twenties, to do with saving the earth and going back to nature, and she spoke about it with a nostalgia and a vehemence which baffled me. I didn’t understand how anyone could be so passionate about politics. But anyway, in moving to the Midwest, she was among other things following her principles.

And so our little town became her refuge, our hideaway. Not that she stopped working altogether. She was very good at what she did and once in a while her former clients still sought her expensive advice. I knew when this happening, even when I was little, because my mother would suddenly become distracted and absorbed by something other than me, pulling interminable sheets of paper out of the printer and studying insect-like columns of figures even as they emerged from its aperture and fell into the tray. Then she’d sit down at the computer and type out a response to what she’d read without pause or hesitation. There was always a small hurt on such occasions at being ignored by her for a few minutes; but there was also fascination in watching her, for even as a small child I was impressed by the assurance of her gestures, the glint of concentrated thought in her eye. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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