There was a time when the family Künstler lived in the fairy-tale city of Vienna. Circumstances transformed that fairy tale into a nightmare, and in 1939 the Künstlers found their way out of Vienna and into a new fairy tale: Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
For years Mamie Künstler, ninety-three-years-old, as clever and glamorous as ever, has lived happily in her bungalow in Venice, California, with her inscrutable housekeeper and her gigantic St. Bernard dog. Their tranquility is upended when Mamie’s grandson, Julian, arrives from New York City. Like many a twenty-something, he has come to seek his fortune in Hollywood. But it is 2020, the global pandemic sweeps in, and Julian’s short visit suddenly has no end in sight.
Mamie was only eleven when the Künstlers escaped Vienna in 1939. They made their way, stunned and overwhelmed, to sunny, surreal Los Angeles, where they joined a colony of distinguished Jewish musicians, writers and intellectuals also escaping Hitler. Now, faced with months of lockdown and a willing listener, Mamie begins to tell Julian the buried stories of her early years in Los Angeles: her escapades with eminent émigrés like Arnold Schoenberg, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Mann. Oh, and Greta Garbo. While the pandemic cuts Julian off from the life he knows, Mamie’s tales open up a world of lives that came before him. They reveal to him just how much the past holds of the future.
Cathleen Schine’s captivating and comedic twelfth novel explores exile, émigrés, movie stars, musicians, family bonds and the power of stories—both those we hand down and the ones held secretly in the heart.
A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt & Company.
The Künstlers left Vienna in 1939 and made their way to Los Angeles. Mamie was eleven years old when she left everything she knew to begin a new life away from the Nazis. She has lived quietly in California and she is now ninety-three years old. She has taken a fall and hurt her wrist. Her grandson, Julian, has arrived to help her through her recovery. But then Covid hits and he is trapped with her through the lock-down. So, she begins to tell her wonderful story about her life.
Now…this book started out slow. I despised Julian almost from the get go. He did sort of redeem himself but he is the reason I almost abandoned this book. And boy…what a mistake that would have been, BECAUSE…then I would have missed Mamie and her stories, smart mouth and Julian getting his comeuppance!
Mamie has lived an amazing life and she slowly dribbles out her tale full of famous people and family secrets. And she takes no sass and no mistakes.
Mamie is one of my favorite characters ever! I could just picture her slamming that cane on the floor and yelling “Julian!” The narrator, Jesse Vilinsky nailed her! She was Mamie through and through! I cannot express this enough. Y’all need to listen to this because she truly brought Mamie to life for me.
Need a story which will make you laugh and cry all in the same sentence…THIS IS IT! Grab your copy today!
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
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