Customer Reviews for

What Is Left the Daughter

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted September 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    A three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships Howard Norman also penned The Northern Lights and The Bird Artist, which were nominated for National Book Awards. He is a writer of estimable talent as is once more evidenced in WHAT IS LEFT THE DAUGHTER, a remarkable portrait of World War II and its effects upon hearts and minds. Themes of love, death, survival, and legacy are explored as the story unfolds through a letter narrator William Hillyer is writing to his 21-year-old daughter, Marlais.

    When 17-year-old Wyatt was orphaned he went to live with his Aunt Constance and Uncle Donald in Nova Scotia. His parents died in a double suicide, and their funeral is an opportunity for the author to display his oblique wit - when a minister is paid $50 for his services, the reverend replies that he usually gets $50 for each. Nonetheless, Wyatt's letter to Marlais primarily concerns what happened before she was born.

    Once in Nova Scotia he helps in his uncle's business - making sled and toboggans and quickly falls in love with Tilda, their beauteous daughter. She does not reciprocate his feelings but as a world war looms she marries a young German.

    Norman captures us with the actions and decisions people make during a time of war, such as Wyatt's uncle destroying his prized record collection. In the end when Wyatt returns to his childhood home and comes face to face with the reason his parents took their own lives he is mystified.

    Having recently heard Bronson Pinchot narrate "Angelina," I was taken with his versatility. Again, Pinchot's voice is notable for its clarity and perfect enunciation, bringing the listener both surprise and sadness as Wyatt writes to his daughter.


    - Gail Cooke

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