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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,899 ratings  ·  324 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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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
ETA: I would like to discuss this book with others who have read it. Please see message four below.


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
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
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.
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booktopia-2012
After hearing this amazing love story from Leslie Maitland herself, it took me three years to finally pick up the book. It was beautifully written, and I could tell that it was one of the most important things that she's ever written. It's almost too good to be true, and I think that's what makes it appealing.

I had no idea the struggles in France during WWII, and that so many Jewish people were sent there, and then taken to their deaths. That was an amazing history lesson for me. I also learned
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
May 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, memoir
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.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Anne Brown
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to read this book based on some reviews but it got incredibly bogged down with a bit too much history and not enough of the real story. A big disappointment.
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is really just an incredible story of human loss and connection in the matrix of history. Highly recommended.
Jill Meyer
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Maitland's "Crossing the Borders of Time" is a superb book about the fluidity of family, love, and home. Maitland, a former NYT reporter, has written about her mother's family and the physical journey the took from Germany into exile and the memories - both positive and painful - they took with them. And she writes of their new life in the United States, where they brought those memories and connections.

Maitland's book actually covers several subjects - the life in Germany and then France
Ellie Schwartz
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction biographical book by Leslie Maitland, daughter of Hannah (Janine) Gunzburger, a German Jew from Freiburg, Germany whom with her family escapes, over four years, only steps ahead of the Nazi oppression, fleeing into France and ultimately obtaining asylum in the U.S. via Cuba. Along the path of her youth Janine falls in love with Roland Arcieri, an Alsatian Catholic, from Mulhouse, France, whereby they are separated for fifty years until they find one another when Roland is seventy, li ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of those stepping stone books for me which is now leading me out of decades of focus on the Holocaust to what happened after the war, to those who managed to get away and to those who survived. What is the impact on the next generation? How do children cope with lives and families torn apart before they were born? What are memories? Several books I have are making me interested more in discovering if the treatment both physical and psychological given to camp survivors helped much in ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
K2 -----
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wanted to love this book and not just like it. I love WWII novels, and this being a memoir I knew I would enjoy it even more. The story was very compelling, but there were times when I felt the author just go on an on about descriptions of towns. This story is about the author's mother, Janine, and her family fleeing to Marseilles, France and then to America. Janine falls in love with a young man named Roland while the war was going on. She looses contact with Roland never realizing her father ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
I tried to listen to the audio version of this book, but by about chapter 19 I couldn't take anymore. Even though the author's mother was brought up in a different culture than I've experienced as a woman born & raised in the US, I still had a very difficult time with the fact that her brother & family interfered with her life as they did, convinced of the fact that they knew what was best for her. I finally scrolled through the other reviews here just to find out what happened & returned the bo ...more
Christina Dudley
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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.

Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-book
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
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Jewish Book Club: Crossing the Borders of Time 8 23 Aug 02, 2015 02:32PM  

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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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10 likes · 1 comments
“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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