Confinement

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"On a snowy night in the winter of 1946, Arthur Henning arrives at a New York banker's country estate. All he has with him are his young son, his sewing machine, and the painful history of the refugee - the home in Vienna he left behind, the wife and infant daughter who perished in London's blitz, and the relatives and friends who disappeared into the abyss of the Holocaust. He has come to begin a new life and to forget." "Once an expert tailor, now he is employed as a chauffeur. He drives Mr. Duvall to work in the city, Mrs. Duvall to her
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Overview

"On a snowy night in the winter of 1946, Arthur Henning arrives at a New York banker's country estate. All he has with him are his young son, his sewing machine, and the painful history of the refugee - the home in Vienna he left behind, the wife and infant daughter who perished in London's blitz, and the relatives and friends who disappeared into the abyss of the Holocaust. He has come to begin a new life and to forget." "Once an expert tailor, now he is employed as a chauffeur. He drives Mr. Duvall to work in the city, Mrs. Duvall to her shopping, their daughter, Agatha, to school. The job gives Arthur solace. There's a cottage for him and his son, Toby, to live in, congeniality in the mansion's kitchen with the other servants, pleasure in watching Toby grow up alongside charming little Agatha. And so there he has remained for nearly a decade, hidden, unable to confront his shattered faith, his fear, and the measure of everything he has lost." Hidden, that is, until life steps in to release Arthur from his seclusion. On orders from Mr. Duvall, he must drive Agatha to her own confinement in that peculiarly American institution of the 1950s, a home for unwed mothers. The Duvalls' plan to give the baby away shocks Arthur from his emotional slumber. The story of these two people - a man who has lost his past and a girl who is forced to give up her future - winds its way to a conclusion that is both inevitable and wholly unpredictable.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A Jewish refugee from Austria nurses a forbidden love for the much younger daughter of his American employer in this piercing, unusual novel by Brown (Rose's Garden; The Hatbox Baby) set in the suburban northeast in the years after WWII. Arthur Henning makes a hair-raising escape from Austria with his nine-year-old son, Toby, and later his wife, Anna, is killed in London in the Blitz. Haunted by memories of her and the trauma of Nazi persecution, Henning makes his way to the U.S., where he becomes the chauffeur and caretaker who tends to the estate of the Duvall family just outside New York. He finally channels his emotions into a deep love for the Duvall's precocious daughter, Agatha, after she becomes pregnant by an unknown suitor and is banished to a home for unwed mothers at the age of 17. Brown slowly develops their unusual friendship, rendering it in rich emotional detail. The edge in the plot comes from Henning's teenage son, Toby, who wants to see his father break away from the dysfunctional Duvall family and carve out a new life of his own. The final revelation regarding Toby's relationship with Agatha is fairly predictable, and some of the time shifts get a bit jittery when Brown dramatizes Henning's climactic separation from Agatha. But Brown's deft shaping of their unconventional love makes the novel haunting and memorable, and Henning's unusual decision to track the infant after Agatha gives birth adds some dark surprises down the stretch. Author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From The Critics
Confinement is not only the title of this thoughtful and haunting novel; it is also the prevailing theme, the glue that holds the characters together. First we meet Arthur Henning, widower and survivor of Nazi Europe, who flees to America with his young son, Toby. Hired by the Duvall family to be their chauffeur, gardener, and handyman, Arthur finds peace in the cottage on their estate. Here, Arthur and Toby slowly recover from their trauma, surrounded by idyllic countryside and the companionship of the mansion's kitchen servants and the Duvalls' young daughter, Aggie. As Arthur watches Toby and Aggie grow up safe and strong, a new life seems possible. However, the idyllic setting hides an undercurrent of confinement. Each character is trapped in his or her own individual way. As a teen, Aggie finds herself pregnant. The events brought on by the pregnancy tear apart both families. Aggie is dispatched to a home for unwed mothers to cover her parents' shame and to dispose of the child. Toby vanishes, and the Duvalls slowly implode. Shocked by the heartlessness of the Duvalls, yet afraid of losing his comfortable position, Arthur suffers in quiet, powerless misery. Only when faced with the threat of once again losing everything, does Arthur begin to create a future. Brown reveals Arthur's haunted, inner world in layers, switching between flashback, daydreams, and the present. It is a tale of fear and guilt, emotional survival, and the redemptive power of love. 2004, Algonquin Books, 368 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Amy Fiske
Library Journal
Brown's latest novel (after The Hatbox Baby) deals with loss; the "confinement" of the title suggests not only the time spent by the teenaged Aggie at a home for unwed mothers but also the self-imposed confinement of the protagonist, Arthur, a Viennese immigrant who works as chauffeur and groundskeeper for Aggie's family. It's hard not to care about these likable characters, but, unfortunately, the book's structure impedes the momentum and the reader's emotions. Brown also overuses flashback, which constantly interrupts the flow of the narrative while giving away far too much in the opening chapters. We know almost all the essential plot elements up front, leaving little in the way of surprise or suspense for the last two-thirds of the book. Literary fiction should be more about character than plot, but not at the expense of storytelling. A marginal purchase.-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When Arthur Henning and his young son, Toby, arrive at the Duvall family's New York country estate one wintry night in 1946, Arthur is resolutely ready to start his new life as a chauffeur. At the onset of the Holocaust, he and his family fled to London from Vienna, but his wife and their infant daughter were killed in the Blitz. Arthur and Toby befriend Agatha, the Duvalls' daughter; when she becomes pregnant, Mr. Duvall asks his chauffeur to drive her to a home for unwed mothers. Arthur refuses to desert her, and in this act of selflessness begins to break through his own confinement of memories and overwhelming obligations to the past and the present. Brown's exquisitely written novel is a complex exploration of the horror and aftermath of war, and also of love, redemption, and the peace one makes with oneself. The book is filled with vivid history, but without a trace of sentimentality. The writing is most lyrical when the novel turns to Arthur's thoughts and memories. His transformation causes him to realize how fragile and tenacious hope is. Readers will find this story compelling and powerful, and will care about the characters' fates.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brooding and elegiac account of an Austrian refugee who begins a new life in America but can't get free of either his troubled memories or his bad luck. A Jewish tailor born and raised in Vienna, Arthur Henning escaped the Nazis and made it to London in 1939-only to have his wife and baby daughter killed there during the bombardments a year later. After the war, Arthur and his surviving son Toby emigrate to America, where Arthur finds work as chauffeur to a wealthy businessman named Duvall, who keeps a large country estate outside New York. It's a quiet life very much to Arthur's liking, especially after the turmoil of the war years, but the clouds soon gather. Duvall's daughter Aggie becomes pregnant by Toby, is sent to a home for unwed mothers, and then forced to put her child up for adoption. Brown (The Hatbox Baby, 2000; stories: The House on Belle Isle, 2002, etc.) tells her story in an elliptical series of flashbacks, so these bare facts are given at the start. But as we move back and forth across the years with Arthur (who knows-but doesn't reveal-where his grandson now lives), we come bit by bit to understand the real depth of pain suffered by all the parties in this affair. For Duvall (whose daughter refuses to reveal the identity of the father), it is a slap in the face; for Aggie (who grew up with Toby and loved Arthur more than her own father), it is a knife in the heart; and for Toby (who was never even told that Aggie was pregnant), it is a bald betrayal. For Arthur, however, it seems to be the culmination of a life of misery and failure, the high point of a grief that has never let up since Kristallnacht. Much too much: an elegant and intensely moving story gets bogged downin its own ruminations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425200278
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author


Carrie Brown, a former journalist, lives in Sweet Briar, Virginia, with her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, and their three children. Her first novel, Rose's Garden, won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. Her most recent book, The Hatbox Baby, won the 2001 Great Lakes Booksellers Association award for fiction and the 2001 Library of Virginia Literary Award.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A tale of maligned innocence

    Carrie Brown makes her readers think and pass judgment. The characters in Confinement, like The Rope Walk, possess a maligned innocence. The novel challenges the reader to assess the characters' judgment and morality as they struggle with questions of religion, society, addiction, fear, love, and family.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    character driven historical tale

    In 1939 Jewish tailor Arthur Henning accompanied by his wife, their son and their infant daughter barely escapes the Nazi invasion of his hometown of Vienna. He relocates in London, but ironically tragedy occurs about a year later when his spouse and daughter die during a Nazi air assault. --- In 1946 Arthur and his son Toby immigrate to the United States. In the New York City suburbs, he becomes a chauffeur to wealthy banker Mr. Duvall and his wife. However, Toby impregnates the Duval daughter Aggie, who refuses to reveal the identity of the father to her parents. Having no say, Aggie is sent to Mrs. MacCauley¿s house for unwed mothers. When the child is born, the baby is given away for adoption. Over the years the five participants increasingly feel betrayed by their loved ones.--- This character driven historical tale uses flashbacks to provide insight into war years and the beginning of the boomer era. The story line is cleverly designed so that the audience knows how the key quintet feels especially Arthur who believes that life is one big tragedy. Though quite dark in outlook fans of deep pessimistic mid twentieth century stories will want to be confined with Carrie Brown¿s gloomy tale.--- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2004

    a beautiful but tedious read

    Carrie Brown is surely one of the most gifted writers working today. Her prose is luminous, tugging on heartstrings, brilliantly evoking a place. Her first novel, Rose's Garden, stands alone, reflecting Ms. Brown's empathy for and understanding of her characters. Lamb In Love fulfilled the promise found in her initial offering. With Confinement the author has lost none of her deft pen, her delicately painted scenes, yet for this reader the story was so lugubrious, ponderous that one was oft tempted to put it aside. This effect may well have been brought about by the time protagonist Arthur Henning spends in rumination. In a nutshell, it is his story. With the aid of friends Arthur and his young son, Toby, have come to the country estate of a New York banker. He is a refugee, driven from his Vienna home by the Nazis and now a widower, having lost his wife, Anna, and infant daughter in a London bombing. All of this is more than Arthur can accept or comprehend. It was Anna he tells us who had faith and could speak properly to God. As for him, 'He could only speak to God as he would speak to anyone, and he did not know, now, whether even Anna would have been able to pray to a God who could fail to rise up against such evil as the world had seen.' This paradox haunts him constantly. Further, in Vienna he was a tailor; here he is a chauffeur. Yet, he has found refuge because there is a cottage for him and Toby, and conviviality with the other servants. Thus, for a decade, Arthur remains somewhat at ease, taking pleasure in watching Toby and the family's daughter, Agatha, grow. But, at last, his stillness is interrupted when he's ordered to drive Agatha to a home for unwed mothers where she is to have her baby and give it up for adoption. Once again, for Arthur, the incomprehensible is taking place, and it is enough to make him see what his life has become and what might be done. The denouement? A heartbreaking one that could only flow from the pen of Carrie Brown. - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2004

    INCREDIBLE BOOK BY AMAZING WOMAN

    A moving, riveting tale. You've got to read it to be sucked in by the magic that Brown weaves with her words. Read up on her, too...She's pretty incredible. Fantastic story, intricate characters, spellbinding plot. Brown puts it all together, and it melts in your mouth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2004

    An Honor to Read This

    I'm really glad Carrie Brown put the work into this book for us. It's so finely crafted and emotionally honest that it really stands out from most other fiction I've read. What can I say, Arthur Henning now feels like a close friend of mine, and the characters are as real to me as any other family I know. A really great book that was a joy to read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    Informative but disappointing

    This story of an Austrian Jew who emigrated to the US after World War II rings true with authenticity and provides great insights into the times from a unique perspective. However, I felt cheated since the protagonist dances around the subject of his son's disappearance throughout the whole story, even though it is told from his point of view and we are privy to his thoughts the entire time. Also, the ending smacked of 'Deus ex machina.' Everything and everyone in the story led a miserable existence, and in the final few paragraphs we are supposed to believe that now, finally, everything will be all right. It was just a little too much to swallow.

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