Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Fifty-year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

  • Fifty-Year Silence, A
Miranda Richmond's maternal grandparents were Jews, who by some miracle escaped internment and death in WW2.  She was Romanian, he stateless (although eventually with French nationality) and they met and married, spend short periods together, and finally after only around five years and the purchase of an old house, Anna left Armand, taking their only child,  and they never spoke again. 

Anna, her grandmother, left Europe, and settled in America where she became a psychciatrist; whilst  Armand had been amongst other things in his long career, a translator during the Nurenberg trials.  Two very different people, two very different personalities.  Anna, an open and caring woman who wanted the best for her granddaughter, and Armand, a closed book, who was very bitter about life and who referred to his (ex?)wife as "that witch", amongst other insults, all the while showing love to his granddaughter so long as his wife was not mentioned.  So with the Atlantic between them, they never met and never talked again and somehow, Miranda Richmond had to find out why this happened.

I thought it was going to be rather dry when I started to read, but it wasn't long before I was engaged in this odd, mysterious family history.  The author will tell you everything she found.  Both grandparents would not tell her anything about why they couldn't stay together, and that mystery is solved only by the author towards the end of the book.  Fortunately, her grandmother kept a great many papers which helped, but I must say Miranda Richmond was tenacious.  It took ten years, and a lot of research - and here's the book!

If you are interested in Jewish history and/or WW2,  this has a very different slant from records of Holocaust survivors and their testimonies.  Nevertheless, it is a record of a time and place that those born without memories of war and the horrors that man can inflict on his fellow man may find intriguing and fascinating.  Certainly the author was intrigued enough to continue digging and I thank her for that - for this rather sad, but understandable and ultimately redeeming story is another part of the jigsaw of WW2, as well as a little piece of her own family history.