Synopses & Reviews
"Deeply moving. . . . Joanna Scott brilliantly captures war as seen through the innocence of a child." -Bookpage
Adriana Nardi is only 10 years old when Allied forces occupy her lush island home during World War II, plaguing the quiet Italian village with violence and uncertainty. Amdu is a Senegalese soldier who abandons his comrades and befriends Adriana after witnessing an unspeakable act that has far-reaching repercussions.
Decades later, on a commuter train bound for Penn Station, 60-year-old Adriana revisits her memories of the war and her doomed relationship with Amdu, even as a present crisis threatens her life.
"A prismatic and quietly powerful look at war. . . . Scott pulls off kaleidoscopic shifts of observation with a depth of vision possessed by great writers." -Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Beautifully realized, exquisitely constructed, and fascinating. . . . A calming and beautiful book to read for consolation, in these dingy times." -Washington Post Book World
"It may be about World War II, but this book is as timely as can be." -Marie Claire
"Scott's voice remains one of contemporary fiction's most eloquent and essential." -Kirkus Reviews
"The morning after her 70th birthday party, attended by her dutiful husband and children, Adriana Rundel takes a commuter train from suburban New Jersey to Manhattan, and becomes lost in memories of her WWII girlhood as a Jew in hiding on the Italian isle of Elba. Stealing glances from her hideout in the cupboard, she finds her first love, a young AWOL Senegalese soldier named Amdu Diop, who takes refuge in her family's home during the Allied push toward liberation. He is 17; she is 10. Theirs is an innocent infatuation rather than an intense affair, but that seems to be precisely what Scott (The Manikin) is after: 'The truth was she liked Amdu because he was perfectly alive.... She just felt it, the way she felt the warmth of the sun.' Their attachment is lovely, but doesn't provide much dramatic lift. And the heart attack Adriana suffers on the train ride into the city, which intermingles her childhood panic with her later-life mortal fear, is less a plot device than a means for integrating the vivid past with the dull present. Still, Scott accomplishes large shifts in time and perspective with grace, and delivers an affecting, unsentimental portrait of a survivor taking stock of her life and loves. Agent, Jeri Thoma." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Caught in a perilous divide between life and death, Mrs. Rundel is both a woman struggling to catch her breath, and the child she was 60 years earlier who struggled to survive the violence of the liberation of Italy and experienced the everlasting innocence of first love from an enemy soldier.
It is the night of June 17, 1944, on the island of Elba, and a young girl is inside a kitchen cabinet, hiding from the war. The liberation has been set in motion. Soon the German occupation will be over and the Elbans will be free. But while history marches on, memory circles back, returning again and again to the experiences that remain unresolved and yet define us.
The girl who spends the first night of the liberation hiding in a cabinet is Adriana Nardi. Sixty years later she has become Mrs. Rundel, who, as she rides a train through the landscape of suburban New Jersey, won't let herself forget the terror of war. She remembers the sounds of battle. She remembers her childish confusion. And she remembers, as she has many times before, a Senegalese soldier named Amdu, who came to her for refuge. On the train to New York, Mrs. Rundel's effort to remember is threatened by the physical force of illness.
About the Author
Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Lannan Award, she lives with her family in upstate New York.