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Paradise Farm
     

Paradise Farm

by Brenda Webster
 

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A novel set in 1929, before the Crash, Paradise Farm probes the disintegration and rebirth of a wealthy Jewish family at a time when the New York art worm was in ferment, the psychoanalytic movement was burgeoning, women's roles were changing, and Hitler's menace was recognized only by a prescient few.

Overview

A novel set in 1929, before the Crash, Paradise Farm probes the disintegration and rebirth of a wealthy Jewish family at a time when the New York art worm was in ferment, the psychoanalytic movement was burgeoning, women's roles were changing, and Hitler's menace was recognized only by a prescient few.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the spring of 1929, just before the stock market crash, a young woman struggles to achieve independence from a well-to-do, assimilated Jewish family whose neurotic needs have tremendous psychic impact. Webster (Sins of the Mothers) crafts a coming-of-age tale exploring the psychological underpinnings of a family's dramatic life changes in a historically portentous moment. While Germany slouches toward the Third Reich and the bottom falls out of the U. S. economy, the Kameners face a critical metamorphosis of their own. Eugene, husband of Agnes and father of their two grown children, Lara and Johnnie, is dying and has arranged for his family to move into the small guest house and rent out their opulent New Jersey home to Muriel and David, a pair of psychologists who plan to transform it into a clinic for disturbed children. The uneasy new household, soon minus Eugene and now including Robin, a little girl who's been mute for a year, gingerly forges new interdependencies headed for destruction, or enlightenment. Lara Kamener, a painter searching for her own original style, is a modern young lady with a secret about her intimate childhood relationship with her brother, a sensitive, gifted, out-of-work mathematician with serious emotional problems. Johnnie becomes increasingly obsessed with the news of heightening anti-Semitism in Germany, and finds himself consumed by concerns about the fate of Jewish people; he is cruelly conflicted because his own family are self-loathing Jews, anxious to conceal their ethnic heritage. Webster skillfully portrays this troubled soul as a sage, the only Kamener who comprehends his Jewish identity and sees the encroaching danger. Agnes tries to compensate for her life's disappointments by marrying a young, opportunistic scoundrel. Using a spare prose style resonant with clues to the catastrophic times ahead, Webster deftly conveys a period of social history when women began voicing their sexual needs, unconventional values were infiltrating social norms and new art movements and Freudian psychoanalysis was becoming chic among the intelligentsia. (Mar.) FYI: Webster is president of PEN American Center West. She has loosely based this novel on the life of her mother, modernist painter Ethel Schwabacher.
Library Journal
Webster's second novel (after Sins of the Mothers, LJ 8/93) centers on a dysfunctional upper-class Jewish family living north of New York City in the 1910s. The patriarch, Eugene, a lawyer with an international practice, has just died, and wife Agnes, daughter Lara, and son John find the loss both liberating and frightening. Helpless, frigid Agnes throws herself at a man half her age who tricks her into signing over much of her fortune. Artist Lara, a stunning beauty, indulges in meaningless love affairs while suppressing the trauma of childhood incest. Mad engineer-cum-kite designer John, cosseted by his neurotic mother and abused by his domineering father, is terminally infantile, attracted to little girls and other unsuitable sexual partners. When Eugene dies, the family decides to relocate to the guest house on Paradise Farm, their home, and rent out the big house to a married couple, practicing psychiatrists who want to treat patients in relative isolation. The setting has possibilities, and Webster creates memorable characters, but this slender novel mostly skims the surface of the milieus her characters inhabit. An optional purchase.--Jo Manning, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables
Booknews
Set in 1929 before the Crash, portrays the disintegration and rebirth of a wealthy Jewish family in New York when the art world there was in ferment, women's roles were changing, the psychoanalytic movement was burgeoning, and Hitler was a funny little man almost no one paid attention to. Webster's second novel. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780791493434
Publisher:
State University of New York Press
Publication date:
09/30/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
477 KB

What People are Saying About This

Diane Wood Middlebrook
In this tale of bohemian life entre deux guerre, a woman artist finds a way to articulate the unspeakable. Spare and stirring—a wonderful novel.

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