The Living and the Lost, the new novel by Ellen Feldman, follows on last year’s excellent title, Paris Never Leaves You. Each of these books is about the resonance that WWII has had for its’ characters. I highly recommend both.
This novel offers a vivid sense of place, object, plot and character. In particular, watch as protagonist Millie goes to the train station in Berlin on a number of occasions. In terms of objects, consider the breakfront. Think of what the word break means; it can be something shattering and a front can be the face that is shown to the world. What is the importance of this article of furniture in the novel? What do readers learn about protagonist Millie through it?
Millie grew up in Germany, made it to the U.S. (at great cost) and returns to Berlin to work post war. In today’s words, readers will identify Millie as having PTSD. This makes her life challenging. Millie’s brother David is her family. In what ways are they the same? Different?
Another important character is Harry. Millie works for him and readers watch as they get to know him. Where will their paths converge? What will their contact offer to each of them?
Throughout the novel, there are scenes of post war Berlin. Who are the victims other than the obvious ones? Will there ever be progress? Will anyone’s family be found post concentration camp?
What was it like to be a survivor in the U.S. during the war? How was it to know that this critical confrontations was not even fully in the awareness of some of the American Jewish characters? What does it mean to have the burden of surviving when others did not?
Think about the title of this novel, The Living and the Lost. While you may assume safely that you know who the living are,wonder, too, about the lost. To me, they are not only those who are dead but also those who have not found their way (yet) in post-war life.
The Living and the Lost is a complex, thoughtful work. I highly recommend it. It would be an excellent book club choice.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.