Book Review: A Fifty-Year Silence
Author: Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Number of Pages: 288
My Rating: 4
Summary from GoodReads.com:
In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author’s grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. The two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.
A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife’s name aloud after she left him. To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents. As she reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory. She also finds herself learning how not only to survive, but to thrive – making a home in the village and falling in love.
With warmth, humor, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents’ outsized characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.
Her entire life, all Miranda knew about her grandparents’ relationship was this- they met, married, had two kids, separated, and then never talked again. She grew up surrounded by the mystery and silence of this relationship, and longed to find out what had happened which would cause her grandparents to simply ignore each other for fifty years.
She begins her research, disguised as college projects and the book she eventually wrote, and goes to the first sources; her grandparents. Let me just say that I quickly fell in love with these two people. Her grandmother is a strong, independent woman in her nineties who never seemed to have needed a man in order to survive. Her grandfather is a picky, hardened man who still lives in Europe and doesn’t see much of this granddaughter as she grows up. His main reasoning for this, however, wasn’t the distance. It was the fact that he didn’t want to see her grandmother.
As you get to know the people as well as the author and her own longing for the truth, you find yourself pulled into the mystery and investing yourself in the story. I couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to find out why her grandparents just stopped talking! I figured something huge happened in order to cause this, but the depth of the reasoning caught me off guard and really made sense to me in the end.
She travels between the United States and Europe, visiting both her grandparents and growing close to her grandfather once she is finally in her late teens and twenties, slowly learning about the type of man he once was and what he went through. As the years go by, her grandfather begins losing his memory and softening, resulting in an added sense of urgency for the author to find out what had happened so many years before.
This book will entrance you and grab you right away. It gives a lot of historical details, which I loved, and the writing really puts you into the story and allows you to clearly visualize what the author, and her grandparents, are seeing. I loved reading about this family and their history, and their story is something that completely intrigued me. Miranda eventually finds herself and what she was looking for, and in the process, brings to life the story of two people who are truly unforgettable.
*Note: I received this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.