Synopses & Reviews
A ferociously intelligent debut novel about a young amnesiacs descent into madness in contemporary Berlin, and a country wrestling with its dark past.
A young woman named Margaret stumbles one morning from a forest outside Berlin, hands dirty, clothes torn. She can remember nothing of the night in the woods, nor — she soon realizes — anything of the previous months. She returns home to her former life.
Two years later, she receives a letter from a mysterious doctor, who summons her to an appointment, claiming to be concerned for her fate. Margaret keeps the appointment, but when she leaves the doctors office, the entire city is transformed. Nazi ghosts manifest as preening falcons; buildings turn to flesh; reality itself wheels.
This is the story of Margarets race to recover her lost history — the night in the forest, and the chasm that opened in her life as a result. Awash in guilt, careening toward a shattering revelation, Margaret finds her personal amnesia resonating more and more clamorously with a nations criminal past, as she struggles toward an awakening that will lead her through madness to the truth, and to the unanswerable agony of her own actions.
Ida Hattemer-Higgins has written a novel about amnesia — individual, cultural, historical — about memory and oblivion, fantasy and reason, myth and redemption in our time. An unforgettable story from a bold and prodigiously gifted young talent.
"A promising premise flatlines in Hattermer-Higgins's overwrought debut. Margaret Taub, a young American woman awakens in a forest outside Berlin in September of 2002 with a several-month-long blank spot in her memory. Two years later, after a letter, addressed to a 'Margaret TÃ¤ubner,' arrives at her apartment, confirming an upcoming appointment with a doctor Margaret has never heard of, she meets the doctor, a gynecologist, who treats Margaret with uncomfortable familiarity and insists on serving as her 'memory surgeon.' The next morning, Berlin has 'transformed into flesh,' and, as Margaret negotiates the menacingly alive city, she is plagued by a mysterious feeling of guilt, all the while becoming increasingly obsessed with Magda Goebbels, the wife of Hitler's propaganda minister, and the possibly parallel story of Regina Strauss, a Jewish woman who committed suicide along with her husband and children. It doesn't take long for this novel to come undone, its magical realism and overly precious tone mixing uneasily with its ponderous claims about ethics and memory. Also problematic are the final revelations about Margaret's past, which are intended to be shocking and enlightening, but are instead burdened with insistence on meaning. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Harrowing and provocative, beguiling in its lyricism and sensuality, "The History of History" is a ferociously smart and electrifying debut novel that tells a tale of obsessive love, family ruptures, and a nation's grief.
About the Author
Ida Hattemer-Higgins was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. She studied German and Chinese literature in New York, then left the United States in 2001. In the time since, she has lived in Japan, India, and Sweden, and for the past seven years has been a student of literature in Berlin, where she has also worked as a walking-tour guide and translator. She now divides her time between Berlin and Moscow. This is her first novel.