Nancy's Reviews > Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice

Two Lives by Janet Malcolm
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's review
Mar 06, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, lgbt-books, march-2008
Read in March, 2008

Malcolm takes Stein scholarship/biography a step further in untangling truth from fiction and reticence. She questions Stein and Toklas' decision to remain in France through WWII when they were both warned of the dangers, and given offers of help in escaping, and looks at how they made it through the war as Jewish lesbians with the help both of friendly villagers, but more so the protection of a major Nazi collaborator who was responsible for sending some thousands to their deaths in concentration camps, and whose lover was a member of the Gestapo. Malcolm also discusses the fact that neither Stein nor Toklas ever claimed their Jewish identities.

Some new information is provided about their relationship, but for readers looking for a really ground-breaking biography, this is not it. In fact, Malcolm discovers that another Stein scholar has in his possession, early notebooks of Stein's, as well as a wealth of interviews with Toklas about the notebooks and her life with Stein. Except for his dissertation, he has been sitting on this material for more than fifty years, and Stein scholars now worry that he may never write his book. Still an interesting read.
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