Summer at Gaglow

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Sarah is already in her late twenties with an acting career in London and a baby on the way when she learns from her father about Gaglow, his family's grand East German country estate that was seized before the war. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the estate will now come back to them.

Sarah attempts to solicit from her father all he knows about Gaglow: the three lucky sisters, Bina, Martha, and Eva; their masterly governess, Fraulein Schulze; their father, Wolf Belgard, a ...

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Overview

Sarah is already in her late twenties with an acting career in London and a baby on the way when she learns from her father about Gaglow, his family's grand East German country estate that was seized before the war. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the estate will now come back to them.

Sarah attempts to solicit from her father all he knows about Gaglow: the three lucky sisters, Bina, Martha, and Eva; their masterly governess, Fraulein Schulze; their father, Wolf Belgard, a prosperous Jewish grain dealer; their mother, Marianna, a "vulgar woman" whose children privately mocked her; and their older brother, Emanuel, wretched from the family to serve his country.

Alternating between Sarah's life and her grandmother's childhood during the First World War, Summer at Gaglow unites four generations of an extraordinary family across the vast reaches of silence, place, loss, and time.

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Editorial Reviews

Deborah Mason
...a near-seamless meshing of family feeling, history and imagination...
NY Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Separated by chronology, history and geography, Eva Belgard and her granddaughter, Sarah Linder, exist vividly in the parallel plots of Freud's third novel, a bestseller in England. Eva is 11 in 1914, a German-Jewish girl who comes of age during WWI; Sarah is British, an unmarried mother of our day whose sole links to her grandmother are curiosity and physical resemblance. Sarah's contemporary trials, her back-and-forth with her baby's father, her sittings for her artist father and her quest to learn family historyare interesting but not as compelling as the hypnotic internal conflicts that have damaged the Belgard family even more than war and anti-Semitism. Alternating chapters feature flashbacks to Eva and her two older sisters, who have been convinced by flamboyant governess Fraulein Schulze of their mother Marianna's "evils of frivolity." "Schu Schu's" divisive influence in the family reaches even farther than it seems at first; the unearthing of her role is the point on which the story turns. Most fascinating, though, is the portrayal of a pre-Holocaust Jewish family of the upper class. When Sarah imagines Marianna begging the Nazis not to seize the Belgard estate, Gaglow, because her son Emanuel "gave up his strength for the Fatherland," we are reminded of how successfully Freud (Hideous Kinky) has drawn the opening and closing of the 20th century around the ugly historic chasm in the middle. (Apr.) FYI: Freud is the daughter of Lucien and the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud.
Library Journal
After opening in 1914 as the Jewish Belgard family summers at their retreat outside Berlin, this novel follows the Belgard sisters, whose comfortable world disintegrates as the Great War progresses. Alternating with that tale is the story of granddaughter and new mother Sarah, who learns from her father of the family estate in Germany, which is to revert to the Belgard descendants. Freud Peerless Flats, LJ 3/15/93 cleverly juxtaposes the world of Gaglow as it was and the myths of the inhabitants of Gaglow as they are told in family stories and histories. Freud's prose is lyrical, her characters remarkable, and her story compelling. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.Caroline M. Hallsworth, Cambrian Coll. Lib., Sudbury, Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
A shrewdly observant, emotionally astute postmodern version of a family saga. Here, Freud (Peerless Flats, 1993, etc.) focuses more on individual episodes than on continuity. Her parallel narratives trace, on the one hand, the collapse of the privileged lives of the wealthy Belgards in WWI-era Germany, and, on the other, the efforts of a descendant of the family to unravel its mysteries. The three Belgard sisters are, at first, more concerned with their long-simmering conflict with a distant mother than with the onset of war. Even the departure of their beloved brother Emmanuel to the army doesn't much affect the tenor of their comfortable existence at Gaglow, the family's vast country home. But little by little the war intrudes: The girls' father, an affluent grain merchant, watches his fortune dwindle; their brother disappears on the Eastern Front; and the once-sumptuous estate shows signs of disrepair and decay. Along the way, the author, great-granddaughter of Sigmund, shows an uncanny ability to get inside the turbulent minds of adolescent girls: Her depiction of Bina, Martha, and Eva's dreams, fears, and fascinations is lively and detailed.. In a subplot set in modern London, Sarah, a sometime actress in her 20s, pregnant with her first child, gradually becomes consumed by the need to make sense of her family's obscure past. Her search is spurred by the news that Gaglow, having been held by the now-collapsed East German regime, will likely return to the family. Sarah and Eva's parallel struggles as young women (Eva must face the collapse of her comfortable life, and the loss of family members; Sarah must deal with a baby, a stalled career, and a feckless boyfriend) arerendered with feeling, but the two stories never converge convincingly. And Freud, while she renders emotions with accuracy, never seems much interested in motivations. Still, the portrait of a vanished way of life is forceful and moving. And Freud's elegantly uncluttered prose is a pleasure. A skilled, if somewhat uneven, performance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880015851
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Esther Freud is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud. She trained as an actress before writing her first novel. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in London.

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