After the death of her mother, author and journalist Helen Epstein set out to uncover her mother's past and to learn more about her grandmother and great-grandmother, victims of the Holocaust. The result is this compelling biography, both a chronicle of three generations of women and a social history of Czechoslovakia's Jews.
Helen Epstein has reconstructed the stories of the women in her family from her great grandmother to her mother. I found the historical quotes about Jews from the period more distracting to the story than enhancing of it. The stories themselves are fascinating enough, and her ability to research her topics, starting with very little factual data, was amazing.
One of the best books I've read on the history of a family. Extensive research leads to a well told story written like a novel, though it is all true, and heartbreakingl so as you watch the family caught up in the runup to the war. Eptstein is the best historical writer of memoir I've read.
This is one of the best Holocaust memoirs I've read. In it, Helen Epstein traces her mother's roots to find out more about the life of both her mother and maternal grandmother back in the author's birth country of former Czechoslovakia, a place the author spent only the first year of her life before she and her parents emigrated to the United States. But she goes even further back in time to discover much about the history and culture of Czech Jews many generations prior to her grandmother's. One of the best things about this book at the time I read it is that it was the best source I had found on the history and lives of Czech Jewry.
The author states that she found her mother an utterly amazing person, and that fact inspired her to learn more about her mother and "where she came from;" hence, the title. And I think that if you read this book, you'll think that her mother was amazing, too!
Not your typical Holocaust memoir. Not a hagiography of saintly parents. But a story of generations of strong women from the 19th Century through post World War II. The author researches her ancestors' histories from the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the birth of Czechoslovakia and its demise. The stories of Therese, Pepi and Franci are those of independent, business women. They were assimilated Jews who were mostly baptized. Yet that did not stop Hitler from deporting Pepi and Franci to concentration camps. Epstein's well researched book gives a detailed history of Austria and Czechoslovakia during this period.
Epstein researches several generations of women in her family from Czechoslovakia in the 1890s to America. Her task is not easy given that little Jewish history is written by or about women and that much human life, history, and heirlooms were lost in the Holocaust.
I was glad that I had read Madeline Albright's Prague Winter before reading this book, as Albright's book provided much-needed background which helped me understand Epstein's story. I also was glad that I had seen the film The Woman in Gold, so that I had some minimal understanding of the events in Vienna. I especially appreciated Epstein's "thinking back through her mothers," as she traces her history back to her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, beginning with the latter and moving forward. It is a riveting story.
I just finished this book, in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn't sleep. I found it very interesting, good info on Czech history, Jewish Czech life, searching for family history. I like the way the personal stories were interwoven with history book info.
Excellent and outstandingly well-researched portrait of a family through four generations. In addition to the family story, I also learned quite a bit about the history of Jews in Europe (including the Holocaust) and Czech history.
The history is not just of her mother's family, but of the Czechs from 1900s to the 1950s. She was arduous in her research and honest in her telling. Highly readable and an excellent addition to history of the period.