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The Life of Objects

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  877 ratings  ·  172 reviews
In 1938, seventeen-year-old Beatrice, an Irish Protestant lace maker, finds herself at the center of a fairy tale when she is whisked away from her dreary life to join the Berlin household of Felix and Dorothea Metzenburg. Art collectors, and friends to the most fascinating men and women in Europe, the Metzenburgs introduce Beatrice to a world in which she finds more to de ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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Salon's Ultimate Book Guide 2012
41st out of 68 books — 26 voters
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Community Reviews

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Nancy Kennedy
Beatrice Palmer, a young woman in the west of Ireland, is bored with her constricting life as a shop girl in her family's haberdashery. Her life offers no possibilities until a glamorous countess comes along and whisks her away to a life of privilege in the wealthy household of the Metzenburg family in Germany. She imagines herself the lucky girl living a fairy tale life: "I, who'd been properly bewitched, was accompanying her to a distant kingdom where I would live in an enchanted forest and sp ...more

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. As always Susanna Moore gives us some wonderful prose. I read several of her early books when they were first published, then drifted away from her work. There’s something vaguely unsatisfying about it. It’s difficult to see the point in her plots. In my opinion “Objects” was saved by the last third of the book prior to that it feels like a mish mash of a description of lovely things and of manners from a previous era. After meandering through
This rather simple novel relays the story of Beatrice (also called Maeve), a young Protestant, Irish woman who leaves Ireland for Germany just before World War II breaks out. She lives with a wealthy couple, the Metzenbergs - ostensibly to make lace for the wife, Dorothea.She ends up working more as their servant. The story is starkly narrated, tinged with Beatrice’s naivete. Because of this almost overly straightforward tone, none of the characters really come to life against this dramatic sett ...more
Mimi Jones
Maybe it was the flat delivery and monotone Irish lilt of the reader of the audiobook, but I found this novel understated to the point of boredom. Not that dramatic things don't happen -- people are captured by the Nazis and disappear, women are raped, cruelty abounds. "The banality of evil" seems an apt description of the cold-blooded and casual brutalization inflicted on the small German village of this book by the various factions in power, first the Nazis, then the Russians.

Basically my prob

I was so disappointed by this book. I wanted to love it, but the writing style felt so flat. I kept waiting for events to tie together, for the people to make sense, for someone to step forward as a leading character. None of this happened. While Beatrice was the narrator, I felt she just wasn't written well enough to satisfy my want for a lead role. The couple with whom she "works" for are clumsily put together...... While they are aristocratic they invite Beatrice to join them at dinner
This book was beautiful. I first came to Susanna Moore through "The Big Girls" while in college, and it was such an engrossing read I couldn't wait to get my hands on her newest novel. Moore has a way of writing that completely envelopes you in the worlds she creates, and this certainly wasn't an exception to her enviable rule. This book felt like a journey, in fact it was very reminiscent of classic films from the 50s and 60s in which characters begin in one place at the film's beginning and ta ...more
Gayle Fleming
This is one of the best novels I have ever read--truly. It is an exquisitely written novel with timing, cadence and perceptiveness that reminds me of a brilliant orchestral piece. The Life of Objects starts off like a fairytale and ends as a horror story. The story is told in the first person by an impressionable young Irish girl, Beatrice Palmer who lives unhappily in a small village with an indifferent father and a downright hateful mother. Her only escape from her dreary life is the school ma ...more
A beautifully written book by an author who has the rare gift of being able to say profound things in such a simple and direct manner that I had to read slowly in order not to miss anything. It's a very short book, considering how much it contains.

For some reason, many of the books I read this year involved the fate of art, art collectors, and dealers during WWII. (I may have to make a special shelf.) In this case, it's a wealthy Jewish art collector, Felix Metzenberg, and his Gentile wife who r
Having recently read HHhH I found myself thinking about the fictionalization of wartime atrocities (Heydrich himself is mentioned in this novel) .... For such a short novel it's remarkable how the entire war is represented - the chapters are entitled 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, and a few "years" are only twenty pages long. But the weight of the war and the transformation of the small-scale society and the larger political events feel as if they are all within the novel. Much ...more
Do we own our things or do they own us? This is a common question for those that struggle with the possession of material goods. Readers will find themselves reflecting on this as they read The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore. Opening in Ireland, shortly before WWII, readers are introduced to the young narrator, Beatrice Palmer. A bookish girl, longing for the adventurous life she confronts in novels, and who always seems to be at odds with her mother, Beatrice teaches herself to make lace and ...more
Amy Raczka
This book just left me cold. I never felt involved with the characters--almost as if I was hovering above the action. Often I couldn't figure out who was talking due to the author's generous use of pronouns. And sometimes I just didn't know what was happening. One instance, Beatrice (or Maeve) finds a soldier in the forest, is frightened and runs home. The next paragraph she is with him again--Huhh??? I found myself rereading paragraphs trying to decipher what was happening. Not a favorite.
Beatrice, an Irish girl who makes lace and sews, is hired by the Metzenburgs in Berlin, 1938. At 17 and coming from a poor family, Beatrice is intrigued by their life of wealth, art and collecting. As Hitler gains power, that life changes and Beatrice finds herself on the family's country estate, burying those collections for protection.
The description of life under the Nazi regime is detailed and the ways that people stayed alive brings Beatrice to a full understanding of those with whom she'd
I like the relationship between the title and the story; it is not just the life of object it is the life that is given through objects. When the story opens and the reader first meets Felix he is obsessed with his objects. Clearly the impression is given that the objects themselves are more important than much else (including his or Dorothea's safety). However, as the war unfolds and Felix sells off item by item it becomes clear that the objects are a means to an end and one begins to wonder if ...more
Beatrice, an Irish teenager, is desperate to get out of her small town and away from her cold parents. While working in her parents' store, she teaches herself lacemaking. A worldy woman comes through town, and takes Beatrice to Germany, where she leaves her with wealthy landed friends, as their own lacemaker.

But it is 1938. Beatrice is naive and clueless. The couple she is left with have no need nor desire for a lacemaker. And war is coming to Germany.

This novel chronicles the next 7 years of B
The Life of Objects is the story of (you guessed it) Beatrice Adelaide Palmer. She is an Irish lace-maker, and is whisked away in what seems a fairy tale to live with Felix and Dorothea Metzenburg. She is introduced to artists, aristocracy, and actors. But World War II is looming, and the conflict arrives at the Metzenburg's. The family and its servants go to their country estate, and try to preserve the old world. But Nazi terror just keeps advancing. Eventually, the Metzenburgs, who Beatrice ( ...more
I'm still trying to decide what I think of Susanna Moore's "The Life of Objects." It opens in 1938 with a young Beatrice Palmer is yearning to leave her small town in West Ireland for something more.

Teaching herself how to create lace for her father's store, she catches the eye of a local aristocrat who brings her to the attention of a visiting Countess who offers Beatrice the opportunity to leave her small town for Berlin as she knows a couple who have an exquisite lace collection.

It doesn't ta
This is a very quiet novel. A young Irish girl who has a talent for lace is approached by a high-class lady. She'll be offered a job with a wealthy German couple who lives in Berlin. Her dreams are coming true, she's leaving her small town behind. Her life is like one of those books that she's read growing up: a fantastical journey, wealthy people, jewels, politics, fancy dinner parties. There is only one problem: World War II has begun and our young Irish-girl is now at the heart of it all.

This book is interesting in that's it's a story of the people living in Germany during and just after WWII when the displacement, shortages and lack of information makes life so difficult. First though it's the story of a young girl whose life was sheltered growing up in a small town in Ireland. She has never been outside of the small town she lives in and has very little experience outside of her environs. With a little encouragement from her father, not her mother, she learns to make lace and ...more
Suzanne Hamilton
While I admire Susanna Moore's writerly craft, I can't give this book a better-than-average rating. The story involves an Irish girl who escapes the drudgery of her life in an isolated village to be deposited in the home of a wealthy German couple just as World War II is gathering steam. I couldn't believe this first premise -- who would accept a girl into their home like that? I was also puzzled by how this couple managed to survive the war without being challenged by the Reich, simply by retre ...more
For a novel concerned with the horror, chaos, and deprivations in Germany both during and immediately after WWII (mainly due to the Russian occupation), this first-person narrative is strangely distancing. Beatrice, an Irish teenager goes to Germany to be the personal lacemaker for a wealthy German family in 1938. Glamor is soon replaced by hardship, yet Beatrice stays, and a new family is forged in adversity. The titular 'objects' extend beyond paintings and jewels to the expendable citizenry p ...more
A truly unique perspective on World War II--from the points of view of both the German family and an Irish outsider, making the reader entirely uncertain of what will happen next and how the characters will make out in the end. Moore has an interesting way of creating characters that the reader comes to know throughout the entire course of the book instead of describing them entirely upon first introducing them into the story. The broken up chapters, staccato in nature, made the novel take on a ...more
Michele DeJong Kaiser
The novel opens with Beatrice, a young girl living in rural Ireland, discovering that her circumscribed life as the daughter of two self-contained and distant parents, can be enlarged through reading and studying birds with her teacher, and later by making lace which she begins to sell at the family shop. She meets a cosmopolitan woman who talks her into moving to Germany to make lace for an aristocratic family. In her naïveté she is quickly out of her depth even as the gentleman of the house ( ...more
Natalie Tyler
This book is much less than the sum of its parts, in my opinion, which is a shame because the parts are potentially dazzling. I wanted to learn more about the many characters and the "objects" they possess or lose.

The book is like life in that it is inconclusive--we all know more or less about the sweep of history during this time, but we only get glimpses of human loss and the response it evokes. The early portion was more successful for me because it had a sharp focus, a limited number of char
So many great reviews, great sounding premise I could not wait to begin. Sadly it did not live up to my expectations. The story takes place in Germany during WWII. The narrator Beatrice arrives in Germany from Ireland expecting to create lace which she loves, but instead essentially becomes the housekeeper for this wealthy German family and is ok with that. My inability to understand her attachment with this family hurts my ability to appreciate the story.
I read this novel after hearing the author's interview by Michael Silverblatt, on his radio show, Bookworm, which I listen to on podcast.
It tells the story of a young woman from Ireland, who develops a talent for making lace, which helps her get an offer to move to Germany and live with a wealthy couple there. She is eager to escape her confining life with her parents, so she accepts the offer. Unfortunately for her, this happens just before the start of
Mr Knox like to say that novels help to show up that the world is a place of strangemess, ruled by chance, which makes it difficult to maintain our certainties. p. 4 The Life of Objects.

I really liked this quote from the book but I have to say that this novel was one that I was not sure exactly what to make of as I read the last page. Most of the characters in this book are very self absorbed to the point of endangering themselves and others. Beatrice( Maeve) the main character sets off for Germ
Lara Hogan
Nov 17, 2012 Lara Hogan added it
Shelves: quit
I could not get into this book at all. It's very unusual for me to just give up on a book, but that's what I did with this one. I read the first several chapters and just found it boring. I can't really rate it properly other than to say it was boring in my opinion.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Not a bad story - but honestly felt that Beatrice (Maeve) was watching forever in the hallway and just relating stories to us - she was never someone to form a connection to. Working on a full review.
Disappointing. I wanted to like the characters, but they never actually DID anything or had any real emotional connections. Which is a shame, especially given the WWII setting in Germany, it had potential.
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Susanna Moore is the author of the novels One Last Look, In the Cut, The Whiteness of Bones, Sleeping Beauties, and My Old Sweetheart, which won the Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her nonfiction travel book, I Myself Have Seen It, was published by the National Geographic Society in ...more
More about Susanna Moore...
In the Cut The Big Girls The Whiteness of Bones My Old Sweetheart One Last Look

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