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Heir to the Glimmering World

3.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,297 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
Cynthia Ozick is an American master at the height of her powers in Heir to the Glimmering World, a grand romantic novel of desire, fame, fanaticism, and unimaginable reversals of fortune. Ozick takes us to the outskirts of the Bronx in the 1930s, as New York fills with Europe’s ousted dreamers, turned overnight into refugees.
Rose Meadows unknowingly enters this world when
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2004)
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Brilliant. A wonder and a joy! It's the mid-1930s and Herr Professor and Frau Mitwisser, being Jews, have fled Hitler's Germany with their big family. Thanks to the charitable Quakers, known for their tradition of religious tolerance, the Mitwisser Family is brought to New York, to Albany, where the professor begins to lecture at the Quaker college. Mrs. Mitwisser is deeply depressed, however, sometimes verging on the delusional, having had to abandon her high-profile scientific pursuits. (She'd ...more
Jul 02, 2010 Edith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was NOT the thrill I anticipated after listening to Ann Patchett recommend it on NBC’s Book Club. She RAVED about this story effusively, calling it “all books for all people”. The story line sounded interesting…a displaced immigrant Jewish family in 1930’s New York state needing to hire a young girl for unspecified help….and had me running to the library to find this book.

I just do not get it. I found myself having to doggedly PLOW through this story (Julia’s words of “never not finish
May 22, 2007 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a reasonably satisfying read -- good stuff for curling up in bed during a cold night -- but the story of a wildly disaffected, almost schizoid nanny in the house of a family of German immigrants coughs and sputters at its core. The narrator's complete lack of affect is supposed to do something, but exactly what is never clear. Equally unclear is what the poorly disguised retelling of A A Milnes' own alienated son is doing in this book. If you approach it as a sweet compendium of idiomat ...more
I picked up this book in Delhi, off a pavement seller peddling second-hand books for a pittance, primarily because it looked interesting and light, and I thought something cheerful would be nice. I would hesitate to call this either cheerful, or light, but it wins on the interesting scale. Heir to the Glimmering World is not, as the title might suggest, a book about fantasy or adventure, or even about inheritance (well, at least, not much).

It's about a girl, working as a governess to the Mitwis
May 23, 2010 El rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-centurylit
The Mitwisser family are exiled Germans living in upstate New York during the Depression, and Rose Meadows, the narrator, answers an ad in the paper looking for rather vague household help. Her duties wind up being different things for different members of the family, depending on their needs. The Mitwissers's benefactor is James A'Bair, a malcontent who is popular because of his father's children's story books about the Bear Boy, ie James. James is loosely based on Christopher Milne, the son of ...more
May 21, 2012 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am sorry to finish it. It’s one of those dreamy books that creates such a particular world. It’s very well-plotted, and the characters are unique and real, but it’s the richness of the created world that makes me love this one. Ozick has made me know just how those teacups, the china ones with yellow roses, feel in my hand; just how Waltraut’s dolls sound on the stairs; just how the Professor’s study feels when you enter it; just how Bertram fills up the kitche ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Heir revisits many of Ozick's trademark themes, which stem from her own heritage: European versus American culture, scholarly pursuits, cultural and class conflict, and exile, both real and imagined. As befitting an author of great intellectual range, Ozick exhibits extraordinary knowledge about her subjects, from Victorian literature and religious mysticism to Depression-era New York. Heir, a captivating, polished story about three sets of lives, resembles in its compassionate questioning of li

Has to force myself to read half ... and then realized I could stop.
Sep 02, 2014 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb writing and enthralling family and character study of these refugees and the narrator who is hired as the father's "aide". It's a tremendous analysis of intellectualism, culture, hierarchy, economic power, language change and esteem alteration- you name it. All within desperate times of change. This is not the particular time period, place, or type of voice that I usually prefer- but the writing of this place and of these people is spot on to a masterful reveal of essence, emotion, and th ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Jessie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally an author with a masterful command of the beauty and intricacies of the English language. Half the book follows the narraror, hired as half scribe half caretaker. A fine portrait of the various stark disenchantments of childhood, the woundedness of exile of all kinds, and the inscrutability of the ones who are supposed to guide us. The author is unsentimental about children and describes the mind-numbing nature of the options left to girls of lower middle class upbringing, the obscure ru ...more
Sarah Beth
This novel is narrated by Rose, who lost her mother as a three year old and her careless and reckless father when she was eighteen. A cousin, Bertram, takes pity on her and takes her in, but in time Rose discovers that "he was not a cousin by blood. Instead he was a cousin to my mother's first cousin; it was a tenuous in-law connection. Laughing, Bertram had worked it out for me - he was the son of my mother's aunt's husband's sister. He was not really a relation" (19). In time, Bertram's girlfr ...more
Would have given four stars because Ozick's writing kept the pages turning. There were some interesting premises within the novel that could have been separate novels in and of themselves. But I gave three stars because the relationships among the characters never really went anywhere and the plot clumsily bumped along until the end just sort of arrived. Ultimately, I felt like all the great writing went to waste.
Robin Friedman
Dec 21, 2013 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cynthia Ozick's 2004 novel "Heir to the Glimmering World" is known as "The Bear Boy" in the United Kingdom. It is fitting that this complex difficult novel will take two, or perhaps more, appropriate titles. "The Bear Boy" refers to one of the many principal characters in the book, James A'Bair. As a child, James had been the subject of a successful series of children's book written by his father. James inherits a fortune when his father dies. We wanders aimlessly over the world before ultimatel ...more
Aug 06, 2014 E rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An odd, yet interesting read, my first delve into Ozick. I was disappointed that the narrative did not provide as much background as I expected about the pre-WWII "upheaval" in Germany that led to the Mitwissers' refugee status, which was part of what drew me to the book in the first place. Nonetheless, while I wouldn't say I found it compelling, I somehow felt I needed to see it through, with the strange Mitwisser family's twisted, yet loyal dysfunction; James's sad, yet generous meanderings; a ...more
Lisa H.
I don't remember whether I officially put Heir to the Glimmering World on my to-be-read list when I read a review from Powell's (if you're a big reader and you need new suggestions for reading material, get on the review-a-day email. They cull reviews from good periodical sources like Esquire, Vanity Fair, Atlantic Monthly, etc. and I probably end up with several new must-reads every month, and forward others to people I think would be interested), but I remembered the title when I s ...more
Dec 10, 2010 Roko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have only read one other novel by Cynthia Ozick, the Puttermesser Papers, and this book has a very different feel. I preferred the Puttermesser book, which struck me as being very inventive and in the realm of magical realism with a dash of New York Jewish humor. This novel doesn't have that kind of fantasy aspect. In other words, everything that happens in the novel could actually happen in real life. Also, it's more serious, and kind of sad.

However, I did enjoy reading this book, which I re
Thilsath Abdul
Apr 14, 2014 Thilsath Abdul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The household of Mitwissers held a strange kind of reticence. Who is James and why is he pumping his money to cater for the needs of these refugees? What is the story behind Mrs Mitwisser, who seems so unsettling and unwilling to set her feet on reality? Beyond all this, what is the exact role or Rose Meadows, an orphaned at the age of eighteen who seems quite trapped in the melancholy of this three storey house filled with kids.

However this story is not entire about the drama that revolves arou
Feb 20, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure what to say. This book had been sitting on my shelf for a few years at least and I was excited to finally pick it up because it looked so cool. It was really disappointing. The writing was well-done but the narrative - there was something so strange about it and not in a good way. It was just a huge emotional disconnect, I think, between the narrative and the story. Going into this, I had no idea that it was supposedly a thinly veiled representation of the saga of A.A. Milne' ...more
Michelle Clark
This book was an interesting story about a girl's journey throughout her life. The story shows how she goes from living with her distant relative to living with the Mitwissers who fled from Nazi Germany. I think this is the essential purpose Cynthia Ozick had for writing this story. The fact that all of these characters had to deal with a lot in their lives from despair to love lost, or just going mentally insane, they all had one thing in common. All of them had been in tough situations, but c ...more
Edward S. Portman
Mi ero segnato di leggere questo libro qualche tempo fa, non mi ricordo neppure quando. Il motivo potrebbe anche essere semplicemente il titolo, Eredi di un mondo lucente può essere accattivante, non lo metto in dubbio, ma credo che all’epoca avessi delle motivazioni più sostanziose. Magari avevo letto da qualche parte qualcosa di interessante a riguardo, oppure avevo trovato una citazione, o mi ero appuntato il nome dell’autrice e avevo scelto questo romanzo lavoro con il quale farne la conosce ...more
May 10, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Pistelli
{Spoilers abound below. This is a novel as profound as those of its sources—Austen, Dickens, Eliot, James—it cannot be spoiled by a mere recitation of its events. It must be read.}

This 2004 novel has not received its due. It seems to have baffled most critics and reviewers, as its contents are at odds with its packaging. Because it takes the plot of the classic nineteenth-century English novel as its own—combining an Austenian satirical romance with a Brontean female bildungsroman—it was sold as
What a strange, somewhat unsettling book. At every turn the book seemed to resist expectations: the orphan who doesn't become the heroine, the little boy out of a storybook who was allowed to grow up... The novel is tensely balanced between Rose (the orphan) and James (the Bear Boy), and their complicated relationship with the Mitwisser family, who have fled 1930s Germany to live in New York.

Truthfully, I'm sure there are BIG IMPORTANT IDEAS I missed in my reading of this novel. The academic in
Sep 10, 2009 Leah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. I felt compelled by it and because of that it went really fast - however, now that's it's over, I'm not sure what I got out of it. It was pretty bleak, and I was anxious for the main character throughout. The writing was good, but it's hard to imagine who I'd recommend this to.
Nov 18, 2015 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A confounding tale that I became exasperated with and then became part of.

We meet 18-year-old Rose Meadows in the 1930s in New York. Rose feels real, perhaps too real. I don't know how I feel about her, but her story is unusual when she takes a job as an undefined assistant to Professor Mitwisser and then becomes part of his household. The family includes his wife a former scientist whose emigration from Germany has left unhinged. There is a teenage daughter who is an enigmatic character. There
Jan 03, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute poetry -- if you could live on words alone, you'd want this one in a picnic basket everywhere you went. Beautifully researched and surprisingly flavored with sad humor, you won't want to put it down at bedtime... and I, in fact, couldn't.
May 17, 2016 Tovah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I knew of Ozick from her essay writing and found this book in a local used bookstore. I was taken with the story, which is something I really look for in my fiction, something I can escape into, and I was perplexed by her characters. Her main character in particular served as a lens rather than a moving part of the machine, she seemed to let everything happen. This could be very frustrating, unless the real meat of the book is the strange alchemy of the other characters. Ozick plays with war, fa ...more
Robin Tauer
A title as irony

I read this book over the last few days and found each time I picked it up, I was not eager to do so. The story centers around a hapless girl who finds herself with no options but to do the bidding of others. She has hopes and dreams, but doesn't seem to know what to do about them. Most of the other characters seem to be in similar quandaries, due to a variety of circumstances. They are all unfortunate heirs to a glimmering world that they are unable to achieve. There are, howeve
Mary Beth
Sep 09, 2014 Mary Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished it, but can't say that I liked it all that much. German refugees come to America. The father, a professor searches for distant sects. Religion and chaos and refutation are his passion. The mother, once a scientist in her own right, is crazy. The new world is nothing like the old. The children belonging to them are relics of their previous life. Into this family comes a girl, the narrator, who has nothing. Nothing she wants to hold onto. In convoluted ways, Bertram seeks her out as Jam ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Marcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heir to the Glimmering World
Cynthia Ozick

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick is a strange, yet entirely realistic and believable novel. It's the story of Rosie, a poor teenage orphan who lands in the household of the Mitwissers, refugees from Hitler's Germany, as an amanuensis who becomes more of a family servant than a secretary. Told primarily from Rosie's point of view, it is of course the story of this family as well: Professor Mitwisser, an out-of-touch philosopher who lives entir
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Recipient of the first Rea Award for the Short Story (in 1976; other winners Rea honorees include Lorrie Moore, John Updike, Alice Munro), an American Academy of Arts and Letters Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award, and the PEN/Malamud award in 2008.

Upon publication of her 1983 The Shawl, Edmund White wrote in the New York Times, "Miss Ozick strikes me as the best American writer to have emerg
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