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The Oriental Wife

2.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  394 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
The Oriental Wife is the story of two assimilated Jewish children from Nuremberg who flee Hitler’s Germany and struggle to put down roots elsewhere. When they meet up again in New York, they fall in love both with each other and with America, believing they have found a permanent refuge. But just when it looks as though nothing can ever touch them again, their lives are sh ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,263)
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Dec 13, 2015 Alena rated it liked it
While I enjoyed reading this novel for the most part, I found some of the gaps in plot and character development downright baffling. We meet childhood friends Louisa, Rolf and Otto in WWI Germany and the boom ends some 50-60 years later in America. Lots of things happen to them, mostly tragic, with related characters coming in and out.

The story lacks depth. I ended up caring about Louisa more than anyone, but I'm still not even sure it's her book. And don't get me started on the's mys
Jun 02, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it
Reading so many negative reviews here, I'm surprised. I understand that I may like sad books better than most people do (and this is certainly a sad book), but so many of the reviews just write this book off. Just because the title doesn't tell you what the book is about? I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, each seeming strong and flawed at the same time. I noticed the choices the writer made in telling the story, omitting details or telling from another point of view so that the reader has to ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
By the time I finished reading this book, I felt unfulfilled. Upon considering the characters, there wasn’t a single one I felt a connection to. A handful of immigrant Jewish Germans in New York make up the cast, but each one was entirely unsympathetic. Specifically, there’s Rolf, the pragmatic, unemotional pencil pusher and his wife Louisa, a flighty careless woman who eventually suffers from a life-changing affliction. The synopsis would lead you to believe it’s a “freakish accident” that alte ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-books, net-galley
Disregarding the title, "The Oriental Wife" begins with an unusual angle on the WWII era surrounding the early immigration/flight of German Jews to America prior to the worst of Hitler's reign of terror. At first, I was put off by the romantic turn in the storyline, however, found myself quickly drawn in and enjoying the read. Unfortunately, the immigrant story line is essentially dropped mid-way through the book and replaced by a twenty year jump in history that essentially leaves too much out ...more
Aug 05, 2011 Gretchen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This is a wonderful novel. It tells the story of Louisa and Rolf - two young German Jews who escape from Germany before World War 2 starts to live in America. They fall in love, and it is the story of their lives and their family. Though sad things happen in the book (the Holocaust, Louisa's illness, etc), the book never becomes bogged down with sadness. The writing keeps the story moving and it definitely enthralled me. You really end up caring for all the characters even when you don't like so ...more
May 28, 2011 Lynne rated it liked it
This is the story of 3 Jewish children, growing up before Hitler came into power and following their lives. I can't for the life of me work out why the author used the title of The Oriental Wife as apart from a passing mention of Japanese women and their idea of marriage, this seems to be a totally random title! That said the book was good. I enjoyed the first two sections which dealt with the Rolf, Otto and Louisa's childhoods and early adulthood. The third part is set about 20 years into the f ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Gina rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, but be warned it is rather depressing.
You would think that would go unsaid, considering the Holocaust is a big event in the novel. But some novels that deal with that period of history actually have positive moments. Say, "I lost my entire family, but I found true love" or whatever.
This novel doesn't give you a lot of positive moments.
Before the Holocaust, life sucks for the characters. For example, as children, they are all starving, pretty much all the time. The major char
Meg Ulmes
Nov 09, 2011 Meg Ulmes rated it it was ok
For me,this novel was a painful read. I decided several times that I did not want to finish it. One reason--I have read too many holocaust-based novels lately and the sadness is just too awful for me. I'm not reading anything about the holocaust for at least six months. In addition, this story also has a soap-operaish tragedy that totally skews the plot. There is too much telling and not enough showing in the second half of the book--leaving the characters undeveloped. The novel could and should ...more
Jan 26, 2015 Caitlyn rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 26, 2011 Daniella rated it did not like it
I can't think of one redeeming quality of this book. The characters were undeveloped and therefore you don't become connected to any of them. The entire book is disjointed, with no attempt at building layers of story. I am really disappointed that I even bothered finishing it, as it got worse with each section.
May 20, 2014 Barb rated it it was ok
This is a strange little book. It tell the story of three Jewish children in Germany, Louisa, Otto, and Rolf. Louisa is sent away from Germany just as it begins to be dangerous for Jews. She ends up in England and then the US. She gets involved with two despicable men before she reunites with Otto and Rolf. She and Rolf fall in love and marry. They have a child, but Louisa is afflicted with a life changing condition.
The book is written about the Holocaust, but it tells more about getting the Jew
I gave up on this book. Maybe I haven't given it a fair chance, but I simply found myself skimming the pages or falling asleep. Not a book for me.
Alexis Jackson
May 05, 2016 Alexis Jackson rated it liked it
I was really transfixed by the history provided in this book, all the while building up our characters and surprising us with conflicts. However, the majority of my time spent with the book resulted in my utter disappointment in the characters, who seem not to live up to our expectations. The last 150 pages is spent praying Louisa will overcome her hardships, but she never does, which is completely dissatisfying. As we watch her daughter come into her own skin, we realize that some things will j ...more
Sep 09, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it
The story of three German Jewish children in the years before the start of World War II, during and after. The story center on the lives of Otto, Louisa and Roth and their families. You get a feel for what life was like in Germany for them before changes started. These young adult were lucky in the fact that their parent could send them away before things got really bad and they weren't there to experience some of the horrors their parents did. Most of their parents made it out of Germany safe a ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Stephanie rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Unlike what the title implies, this is about German Jewish childhood friends who have the fortune of escaping to America before the Nazis really came into power. When I first started reading this, I thought it had a lot of potential. Louisa seemed like an interesting character. But then the story seemed to fall apart for me. I didn't really connect with the characters beyond the first few chapters. Louisa seemed to have no self-worth and, in my opinion, lost her voice entirely (view spoiler) ...more
Aug 13, 2011 Felice rated it it was amazing
The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton is a moving character study of loss. The novel begins in Germany during World War One where Jewish childhood friends: Rolf, Otto and Louisa play their games as the country swings from defeat and complete economic collapse to the rise of the Nazis and economic recovery. They see the mentally and physically wounded WW1 veterans everywhere but they are as much a part of the everyday landscape as are the war wounds of their parents.

As the trio grows up, Toynton c
Patricia O'Sullivan
Jan 21, 2012 Patricia O'Sullivan rated it really liked it
Louise and Rolf were among the lucky Jews who left Nazi Germany before it was too late. And with Rolf’s connections and tireless work for German refugees, they were even able to get out Louise’s parents and Rolf’s mother and bring them to America. As the older generation wept over the destruction of their lives and the loss of loved ones in Germany, Louise and Rolf embraced America. And America seemed to embrace Louise and Rolf back until a debilitating illness reminded them that the sorrows of ...more
Jan 22, 2016 Kirsten rated it really liked it
The book jacket is a little misleading, IMO. The story starts with 3 Jewish children growing up as Nazism extends its nasty reach in Germany. Otto & Louisa are cousins and spend a lot of time with Otto's friend Rolf. The main narrative follows Louisa as she leaves Germany for school and then follows her heart. She encounters Otto & Rolf in New York several years later and rekindles her friendship with them. While Rolf has his own story, it is not as robust as that of Louisa's. And when t ...more
Dec 19, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this a 3.5 rating, but the site wouldn't allow it so I bumped it to a 4. I had high hopes for this novel and while I thought the writing was crisp with well-chosen words, I found that there were no characters I really cared deeply about. The book flap summary did not do a good job of telling the reader what the story is about; it described the book as being about three people who escaped Nazi Germany and settled in the United States, only to have their lives turned upside down b ...more
Mary Ford
Aug 21, 2011 Mary Ford rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
I wanted to like this book. Normally I don't read in this genre but after finding The Time Traveler's Wife I've been exploring books I wouldn't normally read.

As previous reviewers have indicated I'm not really sure why the title of this is The Oriental Wife and I think that even after reading the blurb I still expected something different.

I actually enjoyed the characters and their development which is why I gave it three stars. What I felt it lacked was a good flow or decent follow through wit
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was ok
I read this book with some anticipation and was let down very early. The characters were not fully developed, the book read more like a draft than a finished copy and the story went very slowly without much gravitas or action.

The main characters were Jewish immigrants who had escaped Germany prior to World War two. On that count, one would could consider them lucky. However, they were placed into a new environment where they faced hardships, illness and felt out of place. Not to compare their si
Oct 06, 2011 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-read-2011
The Oriental Wife is a story focusing on the lives of several Jewish refugees that come to America from Germany before the height of World War II. The story follows them through several decades. I really enjoyed this one from the beginning but about halfway through I felt completely lost. The story clearly falls apart as the main characters get older. Tragedy does not strike just Louisa and Rolf, it tears apart the story as well. I felt that Louisa ceased to be her own character, I kept wanting ...more
Feb 05, 2013 Bernadette rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The book frequently felt like the outline of what should have been a much longer story. Motivation was lacking in the characters in the first two thirds of this book. Things happen. Then more things happen to those people. Then more things happen. Time passes in great big swaths, and then key information is filled in through memories that feel like afterthoughts to explain motivation of the characters.

Emma is the one character that seems developed, but only when we are introduced to her adult s
Frances L
Feb 27, 2016 Frances L rated it really liked it
This book explores the lives of three young people who escape the holocaust. They are lucky, but their lives do not reflect this. One retreats, one loves but can't show or receive love, one makes a new life. A good book about those touched by the war and the Holocaust.
Aug 22, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Be prepared this is not actually a story about an Oriental wife, that is just a reference to a conversation between the main character and her friend in the beginning of the book. As you can read, the main characters were older Jewish children sent away by their parents from Hitler's Germany prior to the worst of his regime. In the end, the story turns to examine more of their relationship than it focuses on the Holocaust. It's an interesting read. Maybe not always the most cohesive storyline as ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Pauline rated it did not like it
First off, this book has nothing to with with Asians. It tells the story of three Jewish children who immigrated to New York during the WW2 era right before the worst of the persecution of Jews began. I didn't really like it very much. For me, emotional connection to the characters in a book is a huge part of what keeps me interested. Unfortunately, I could not bring myself to like any of the characters in the book. When that happens, I lose interest in their story. Still, I continued on to fini ...more
Mary Trieschmann
Sep 19, 2011 Mary Trieschmann rated it liked it
I expected to like this novel more than I did. I knew the story would be grim, but it was even darker than i thought it would be. The story begins during Hitler's rise to power. The friendship of Louisa, Rolf, & Otto as children who are bewildered by the changing attitudes toward their well-to-do Jewish families contrasts with their later immigration to the US. Two thirds of the novel is mostly about Louisa & Rolf. The part of the novel that I don't think works is the section about their ...more
Nov 27, 2014 jane rated it really liked it
Excellent character studies about several children who escaped the holocaust and how they dealt with life after the escape from Germany. The title dealt with a side story that was not as strongly developed.
There are books that are about sad events and there are books that are sad. This is a morbid book. I've read other books that use Nazi Germany and the plight of the Jews as the backdrop and thought they did a much better job of describing horrific events while developing characters I cared about. Unfortunately, I didn't like most of the ones in this book. One of the main characters suffers from a freakish accident, which reveals the other's true character -- a poor excuse for a human being.

Aug 07, 2012 Histteach24 rated it liked it
I thought the story line would go more in depth as it progressed-which is why I kept reading. However, the ending seemed to halt with loose ends. The characters were all weak, and I am assuming their character flaws and weakness is what the author wanted the book to illustrate. But they stayed weak and their stories never developed. Characters seemed to appear and disappear. There were some thought provoking questions-is it necessary to forget the past in order to survive/move forward? Was Rolf ...more
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does anyone understand the title? 1 3 Nov 22, 2013 09:00AM  
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Evelyn Toynton’s work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Book Review, the American Scholar, Art and Antiques, and other publications.
More about Evelyn Toynton...

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