Synopses & Reviews
Cynthia Ozick is an American master at the height of her powers in Heir to the Glimmering World
, a grand romantic novel of desire, fame, fanaticism, and unimaginable reversals of fortune.
Ozick takes us to the outskirts of the Bronx in the 1930s, as New York fills with Europe's ousted dreamers, turned overnight into refugees. Rose Meadows unknowingly enters this world when she answers an ambiguous want ad for an "assistant" to a Herr Mitwisser, the patriarch of a large, chaotic household. Rosie, orphaned at eighteen, has been living with her distant relative Bertram, who sparks her first erotic desires. But just as he begins to return her affection, his lover, a radical socialist named Ninel (Lenin spelled backward), turns her out. And so Rosie takes refuge from love among refugees of world upheaval. Cast out from Berlins elite, the Mitwissers live at the whim of a mysterious benefactor, James A'Bair. Professor Mitwisser is a terrifying figure, obsessed with his arcane research. His distraught wife, Elsa, once a prominent physicist, is becoming unhinged. Their willful sixteen-year-old daughter runs the household: the exquisite, enigmatic Anneliese. Rosie's place here is uncertain, and she finds her fate hanging on the arrival of James. Inspired by the real Christopher Robin, James is the Bear Boy, the son of a famous children's author who recreated James as the fanciful subject of his books. Also a kind of refugee, James runs from his own fame, a boy adored by the world but grown into a bitter man. It is Anneliese's fierce longing that draws James back to this troubled house, and it is Rosie who must help them all resist James's reckless orbit.
Ozick lovingly evokes these perpetual outsiders thrown together by surprising chance. The hard times they inherit still hold glimmers of past hopes and future dreams. Heir to the Glimmering World is a generous delight.
"Ozick's previous novel, The Puttermesser Papers, revolved around one quirky hero; this time around, Ozick incubates several. Characters, not plot, drive this Depression-era tale, and Ozick eviscerates each one through her narrator, Rose Meadows, a resolute 18-year-old orphan. Virtually abandoned, Rose wanders into a job with the Mitwisser family, German refugees in New York City. Filling gaping holes in their household, she becomes a research assistant to the father, a professor stubbornly engaged in German and Hebrew arcana; a nurse to his oft-deranged, sequestered wife; and nanny to their five children. As she penetrates the fog surrounding their history, Rose limns their roiling inner lives with exasperated perception. Mrs. Mitwisser especially chafes against the family's precarious, degrading status as 'parasites,' erratically supported by the unbalanced millionaire son and heir of an author of popular children's books who is fascinated by Mr. Mitwisser's research. With her trademark lyrical prose, gentle humor and vivid imagery, Ozick paints a textured portrait of outsiders rendered powerless, retreating into tightly coiled existences of scholarly rapture, guarded brazenness and even calculated lunacy all as a means of refuting the bleakness of a harsh, chaotic world. Erudite exposition is packed into the book, so that character study and discourse occasionally grind the plot to a halt. Edifying and evocative, if often daunting, this is a concentrated slice of eccentric life. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Sept. 1) Forecast: This is Ozick's first book for Houghton Mifflin, and the publisher is backing it with a seven-city author tour. Despite its rigors, it may be an easier sell than The Puttermesser Papers; the family drama makes it more accessible. Foreign rights sold in Brazil, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] fairy tale with locked rooms, mad songs, secret books and stolen babies....Think of Glimmering as a Turn of the Screw in which the ghosts are from the dreadful future....[A] brilliant apostrophe to shattered worlds." John Leonard, The New York Times Book Review
"Ozick sets in motion a kaleidoscopic array of complex entanglements in her much anticipated new novel, a work of scintillating intelligence and supple imagination that...draws on sacred and literary traditions to create a tale at once compassionate and brightly satirical, otherworldly and down to earth." Booklist
"This witty book will appeal to admirers of the fanciful tales in Ozick's Puttermesser Papers and to readers seeking well-written novels with intellectual depth." Library Journal
"Heir to the Glimmering World
offers itself as an antidote to literature as parasitism, and its arguments are, for the most part, convincing. All the book's strands tug in some way at the knot of sources and interpretations, primariness and secondariness, that constitutes both its substance and its form." Ruth Franklin, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
"Rose Meadows, the narrator of Cynthia Ozick's new book, seems at first glance like a heroine plucked from a nineteenth-century novel....Ozick, the celebrated author of essays, short stories, and novels, unpacks the histories and relationships of these characters with great energy and imagination. She has written a dark fairytale for grownups, and it reads like a haunting pleasure." Anna Godbersen, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
Set in the New York of the 1930s, this entrancing, richly plotted novel brims with intriguing characters. Orphaned at 18, with few possessions, Rose Meadows finds steady employment with the Mitwisser clan and watches as the refugee family's fortunes rise and fall, against the vivid backdrop of a world in tumult.
Cynthia Ozick has been known for decades as one of America's most gifted and extraordinary storytellers; her remarkable new novel has established her as one of the most entertaining as well. Set in the New York of the 1930s, Heir to the Glimmering World is a spellbinding, richly plotted novel brimming with intriguing characters. Orphaned at eighteen, with few possessions, Rose Meadows finds steady employment with the Mitwisser clan. Recently arrived from Berlin, the Mitwissers rely on the auspices of a generous benefactor, James A'Bair, the discontented heir to a fortune his father, a famous childen's author, made from a series of books called The Bear Boy. Against the vivid backdrop of a world in tumult, Rose learns the refugee family's secrets as she watches their fortunes rise and fall in Ozick's wholly engrossing novel.
In her sixth novel, Cynthia Ozick retells the story of Henry Jamess The Ambassadors as a photographic negative, retaining the plot but reversing the meaning.
Foreign Bodies transforms Henry Jamess prototype into a brilliant, utterly original, new American classic. At the core of the story is Bea Nightingale, a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to leave New York for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of her brothers family and even, after so long, her ex-husband. Every one of them is irrevocably changed by the events of just a few months in that fateful year. Traveling from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, facing her ex-husband and finally shaking off his lingering sneers from decades past, Bea Nightingale is a newly liberated divorcee who inadvertently wreaks havoc on the very people she tries to help.
By the summer of 1952, Beatrice Nightingale had taught school in New York City for 24 years, had been divorced from her Hollywood-composer husband for some 20 of those years, and had been estranged from her brother for nearly her entire life. She had lived in the same small apartment since her wedding, a space still dominated by her ex-husband's piano--just as her life was still defined by his decisions of so long ago. But that summer, her brother suddenly reached out to her for the first time in years, begging her to intercept and retrieve her nephew, a Paris runaway. His request propels Bea toward decisions and departures--partly well intended, partly selfish--that unravel a complex knot of siblings, spouses, exes, and Bea's extended family, in an unforgettable portrait of a middle-aged woman who finally gains the chance to escape the traps of her past. Bea travels to Paris, California, and back to New York, and the novel shifts perspective to reveal the stories of her niece, her nephew and his unexpected wife, Bea's brother and sister-in-law, and her ex-husband. The men in her life have treated her badly, as she is painfully aware, yet in finally trying to gain her own independence from them, how can she resist her own, more subtle form of counterattack and revenge?
About the Author
Acclaimed for her many works of fiction and criticism, Cynthia Ozick was a finalist for the National Book Award for her previous novel, The Puttermesser Papers, which was named one of the top ten books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Her most recent essay collection, Quarrel & Quandary, won the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Ozick's work has been translated into thirteen languages worldwide. Her classic novella The Shawl was produced for the stage in New York, directed by Sidney Lumet.