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Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,152 ratings  ·  235 reviews
Leslie Maitland is an award-winning former New York Times investigative reporter whose mother and grandparents fled Germany in 1938 for France, where, as Jews, they spent four years as refugees, the last two under risk of Nazi deportation. In 1942 they made it onto the last boat to escape France before the Germans sealed its harbors. Then, barred from entering the United S ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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This book was brought to my attention by the NPR radio program where Diane Rehm interviewed the author, Leslie Maitland. After listening to her read an excerpt, I knew I had to read it. I am so glad that I did! This was a fantastic book!! While it is a true story, written by an investigative reporter for the NY Times, it reads like a well plotted novel. Janine, the main character is the author's mother. Her Jewish family left Germany for France in 1938 and subsequently escaped to the US via Cuba ...more
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I cannot say I liked the ending, but hey this is not fiction! I would recommend this book to those interested in WW2 memoirs and those who do not get upset when they read about infidelity! I would avoid the audiobook narrated by the author. The melodramatic tone piled on top of emotional, melodramatic lines is sometimes hard to swallow. If this sounds like I did not like this bo
Reading through the reviews on Goodreads, I am amazed that people focused on the immorality of marriage infidelity and spoke little about the horrific historical events this family survived. It may seem hard to believe but the Gunzberger family was one of the lucky ones. They had money and connections that allowed them to escape Nazi Germany when a full 90% of the Jews in Germany were killed by the Nazis.

I love that the family was able to preserve so many artifacts. Most of the Jews who survive
Part of this book is a remarkable story, remarkably told. I hovered between a 3 and 4 on this one, because Maitland's mother's story is truly interesting (the denouement is knowable from the jacket copy, but I won't spoil). And the chapters about Janine (the mother's) years as a girl in early Nazi Germany, as a relatively comfortable refugee in pre-war France, and as an evermore precarious potential target in occupied France are wonderful.

Maitland's grandfather preserved numerous family documen
Elise Murdock
On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of ...more
I loved every moment I spent reading this book (which I did in about 4 days). Maitland's writing style was unlike any other I have ever encountered; part memoir, part investigative reporter, part narrative, part history, and part novel. Clearly Maitland has done exhaustive research, painstakingly verifying sources, names, places, and events.

The best part about this story is that it's true! I fell in love with the characters and when I wasn't reading, I found my mind wandering to Sigmar and Alice
Leslie Maitland's biography/memoir really operates on 2 levels. First, there's the story of the escape of the her mother and her mother's family from the oncoming Nazis, as they move first from Germany to France, and then escape France for Cuba and, eventually, the United States. The details of Jewish life under a Nazi regime are chilling. In escaping Janine, Maitland's mother,leaves behind a boyfriend whom she believes to be the love of her life. The second level of the story examines Janine's ...more
I bought into the selling point that this book told the Romeo and Juliet-esque love story of two young lovers separated over decades due to Maitland’s mother’s family escaping persecution during the Holocaust. Well, yes, that’s part of it, but a sizeable portion of the 500+ pages are devoted to dry historical information, taking away from the primary, more personal story. It’s important information, and I usually do enjoy history, but the author threw in every little tidbit from her research and ...more
The book starts out strong, but goes downhill from there, and the climax of the book was infuriating. Roland and Janine were young lovers in Alsace at the beginning of the war, but were separated when her family had to flee because they were Jewish. The decades pass and each marries other people. Finally, Janine's adult daughter tracks down Roland and the two reconnect over the phone 50 years later. This could have been a wonderfully heartwarming story except for the fact that Roland is still ma ...more
Loved this book! What an incredible story. I'm still shocked and saddened by these stories of pain and loss during the time of Hitler and we should never forget what these jewish families had to endure.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read about WWII.

I had the pleasure of meeting this author at Booktopia 2012 in Vermont. Thank you Ms. Maitland for sharing your mother's story.
The author, Leslie Maitland had me right from the start. She was in the verge of finding the love of her mother's life, a person her mother had been separated from fifty years ago when she fled Nazi Germany. The hook was in, and most of the remaining book was the background stories of her mother and grandparents' lives and I had to be patient to see if her attempts to reunite "Janine" and "Roland" were successful. I was in awe of the amount of research that went into the writing of this book. It ...more
I really wanted to love this book - I mean a love story about a couple separated through war and reunited years (and marriages) later? Sounds amazing. Unfortunately, the writing just drove me bonkers. The story meandered all around and got lost in annoying details. I couldn't even hang on until it got to the good part. Too bad.
In short: There's no way of getting around what an incredible story this is, and I'm putting it at the top of my recommendations for people looking for Not Just a Novel (since it isn't a novel at all). It borders on indulgent at times, and Maitland goes a little purple here and there in her descriptions of her mother's idyllic life before the war, her father's self-obsession, and a few other spots, but bear with it and through all 500 pages, because the detail, the memories made real, and the wa ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Frances rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Frances by: Jane Landis
My mother bought this book for me on my kindle. It magically appeared in the device. That was just the first pleasant surprise that awaited me during the reading of this book. I loved every second of it! There were a few times where I had a hard time keeping track of the various family relations described in the book, but the family tree helped me sort out those questions. I could relate to these real people as if they were my real family. Having just read the book "Caring for Words in a Culture ...more
K2 -----
This was such an amazing book I didn't want it to end and delayed completing it I was so moved.

What is also amazing is how much source materials the author had access to and the in depth research she did into her mother's story.

The author, Leslie Maitland had been conceived but not born, when her mother was forced to choose between her baby's father and the love of her life. Leslie grew up knowing her mother's first love affair was interrupted by the ravages of World War II and her mother's fam
Excellent read! I highly recommend this book; it should be added to the legacy of books about the history and impact of WWII.

This is a Holocaust story, an immigrant story, and ultimately the story of star-crossed lovers torn apart by war. It is the true story of Leslie Maitland’s mother whose German name was Hannah, which she changed to Janine in France. The time frame covers her journey from a childhood in Germany and France just prior to WWII, to adulthood in America. The story is beautifully
Ellie Schwartz
Leslie Maitland recounts her mother's story. Born in 1923 in Freiburg, Germany, Hanna Gűnzburger lived a relatively carefree middle class life with her sister, parents, and extended family. At the age of fifteen she was forced with other German Jews to leave their homeland as the Nazis ascended to power. Moving to France, she changed her name to the French name Janine and assimilated into French society as well as any Jewish refugee from Germany could. It was in France where she met Roland (not ...more
Linda LaRoche
Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland is a superior book based on a true story. It is an intriguing quest in which the vividly harrowing descriptions of the Jewish plight during WWII overshadow a forbidden love between a Jewish girl and a French boy. Evocative with insight into refugee displacement and exile due to the war, it’s a testament to family survival and unity and the triumph of love.

Maitland's book covers many subjects. Her mother Johanna Gunzburger later called Janine was bo
Oct 31, 2012 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in WWII stories
Recommended to Lori by: Books on the Nightstand
I listened to the author, Leslie Maitland, do an amazing job of narrating this wonderful story of love and loss during World War II. She shares the fascinating story of her mother, a German Jew who, at the age of 16 was forced to leave her homeland with her family in order to flee Hitler. Moving to France where they were sure they would be safe, her mother met the "love of her life." As we all know, France did not escape the clutches of the Third Reich and Maitland's mother's harrowing story of ...more
What a riveting account of Jennine's family's escape from Nazi Germany always one step ahead of being captured. Sometimes you feel like you can't read one more novel about this insane period of history and then a story like this comes along softened by the relationship of Roland and Jennine. Well researched and had to read it through the credits just to take in every last detail. The fact that this was a true story only made it the more bittersweet. Makes you realize, though, that if a family of ...more
I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end and was sorry to finish it. I am glad to have it on my Nook as it will be one to read again. The WWII genre is one of interest in both fiction and non-fiction. My father was in England when I was born and then in France for the rest of the war. This book is an amazing historical record of the journey of this family from Germany to France to Cuba and then to the United States. The author writes so beautifully that we are brought into a history of ...more
Christina Dudley
This memoir/family history/general WWII history began thrillingly, with a daughter trying to track down her mother's lost wartime love, and throughout the book, that was the story I was most interested in--not the grandparents, not the siblings, not the cousins, not the mayor, and so on. I also felt very sorry for mom's eventual husband, rather like whoever Kate Winslet's character ended up marrying in TITANIC--thanks for the lifetime, bub, but I'm still carrying a torch for this other fellow.

Jani Brooks
An excellent account of what Jews went through in the 30s and early 40s in both Germany and France. Ms Maitland's mother and her parents, sister, and brother had many a hair-raising moment as they stumbled through life after losing everything in Germany. Their perserverence and determination to move on is detailed by the author, but everything hinged on laying low, and getting out of Europe. The background of the love story is both poignant and frustrating as roadblocks are constantly put up to ...more
The story and the premise was good but I agree with other GR readers that you should get the book and not use the audio. You need to be able to skim this one to move on with it. The author just puts in way too much detail and repeats sentiments that don't need endless reminders. However, this being said, the history of one couple's romance set against the turmoil of the Holocaust is a a great story. The family endures many problems leaving Alsace and then France and then Cuba to finally get to N ...more
University of Chicago Magazine
Leslie Maitland, AB'71

From our pages (May–June/13): "Journalist Leslie Maitland, AB'71, tells the story of her mother's life. In 1942, Janine, an 18-year-old German Jew, boarded a boat from Marseille bound for New York City, leaving the Catholic Frenchman she hoped to marry. Five years later Janine married an American man, but she never stopped thinking about the man she loved in France."

Read the story:
Mel Ostrov

3 ½ Stars?

There have been reviews stating that despite this being a good story it was too long, bogged down by too much minutiae. The author, an eminent journalist, apparently tried to squeeze extensive, extremely detailed descriptions into it that resulted in over 500 pages. On one level, it is a true account of her family’s attempts to escape from Nazi Germany and beyond; on another level, there are historical diversions describing the history of the Nazi invasion and persecution of the Jewi
Leslie wrote such a personal and moving story that weaves both history and an amazing love story throughout. She shares so much insight into both of her parents, both as individuals and also their complex relationship and the upbringing they both had that shaped the rest of their lives and the events that unfolded in the lead up to WW II and the aftermath in both Europe and the US. One of the best books I have read in the last several years !
Aug 19, 2012 Lil rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lil by: books on the nightstand
What a wonderful book! This is a lot of book about a lot of things...a poignant love story, a personal story of the holocaust, a reflection on marriage/relationships and a memoir of the author telling her mother's story. The love story is the hook, but I think the story of the family's exile was what affected me most. All of this is extremely well done and I am very glad this book came my way.
It was a struggle. I was lured in by the whole 'reunion after 50 years' thing, but it felt like it took me 50 years to get to that part. First I had to read the entire history of WWII in France (shades of history class which was never my favourite) and then years in Cuba and the US.

Finally the big reunion -- which might have been a lot more touching if (a)the author's father hadn't been at home dying while she's trying to find mom's lost love, and (b) lost love has a wife. From then on, it was
I wish Goodreads had 1/2 star ratings, as I'd rate this one 4.5 stars. The book is non-fiction: a sort of history/biography/memoir. At the macro level the book is about what happened to many German and French Jews during the late 1930s through the end of WWII and thereafter ... about the ones who survived and ones who didn't. At the micro level, it's about several specific families and what happened to them, told through the lens of an ill-fated love between a young Jewish woman and a Catholic m ...more
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Leslie Maitland is a former reporter for the New York Times who specialized in legal affairs and investigative reporting. She joined the Times after graduating from the University of Chicago and the Harvard Divinity School. After breaking stories on the FBI’s undercover “Abscam” inquiry into corruption in Congress, she moved to the New York Times Washington Bureau to cover the Justice Department. ...more
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Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War

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“I miss you terribly. You see, you always talk about getting cure of our romance, and I did my best to help! But now you have me definitely and hopelessly 'contaminated' to the extent that I am sick at heart. Strangeley, I do not want to be cured! I love you completely.” 3 likes
“His wide mouth was firm as his lips met her own, and like an explorer planting a stake in new soil, he claimed her right then for the rest of her days.” 2 likes
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