Rachel's Reviews > Blue Nude

Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner
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Mar 17, 12

bookshelves: jewish-fiction
Read in March, 2012

So thrilled to be taking this off of my "currently reading" shelf after a year!

I put off starting this book for various reasons along the way, but in the end I enjoyed it overall. It's pretty apparent from the get go that Rosner is a modernist (she lists Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham among her inspirations, as if one couldn't pick up on that from the strictly stream-of-consciousness POV points.) I love modernism too, and I thought it really served the middle of this story. I love how we went backwards, not forwards in time to better understand these characters. I also really appreciate how deftly Rosner pulled off the Danzig/(Third Reich) Germany and Merav/Israel comparison, because obviously this is a hugely sensitive subject. She sought to explore how these two characters came to San Fransisco to escape the tensions within themselves vs their national origins, but obviously Israel is under real threat from her neighbors whereas the Germans had to make up threats to justify genocide. So true to a modernist style Rosner had two people die in place of her protagonists--Merav's childhood friend and lover, Yossi, was killed in a terrorist attack, and Margot, Danzig's sister and truly the most modernist construction in the book, pretty much took her life for Germany's sins. (On a related note while reading Margot's chapters I realized I'd had very little education into how regular German citizens fiercely embraced their society's view of patriotism during WWII. I rather wish that Yossi would have had some POV chapters, too, which could have better explored the Israeli sense of patriotism from someone who chose to stay in the army.)

Where it didn't work so much for me was at the beginning and the end--"the present" part of the story where Merav and Danzig meet each other and supposedly form some kind of relationship that touches upon both of their national and personal pasts. ...except that during all those times that Merav posed for Danzig they never learned more about each other than the identities of Israeli and German; they both remained locked in their own heads, pouring over narrative that was better covered in the middle. Obviously this is a very visual book with beautiful descriptions, particularly because it is about art. And I appreciated the fact that Merav reminded Danzig of his sister, the first "blue nude" he saw whom he also referred to as "M." But none of this was explored in a very conclusive and satisfying way. As much as I love modernism, the final act in particular deserved something a bit more concrete.
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