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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: 9780880016728
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.68 (h) x 0.70 (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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Read an Excerpt

Summer at Gaglow


By Esther Freud

Ecco

Copyright © 1999 Esther Freud
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0880016728


Chapter One


The Belgard girls did not admire their mother. They disapproved of her card-playing and the cigars she smoked when her husband was away from home. But their brother Emanuel they all adored. The following week he was to be twenty-one and the family were united for once in planning a party to span an entire weekend. The guests had been invited, the caterers informed and flowers were to be collected from the gardens and conservatories and arranged in monumental bouquets throughout the house. The party was to be held at Gaglow, and not at their Berlin apartment which, although large, was not large enough to hold the guests they expected to attend.

    It was the summer of 1914 and it was also Eva's birthday. No one seemed to remember in the flurry of activity that, on the same day as her brother would be twenty-one, Eva was to be eleven. She held her head up high and defied them to remember. Marianna Belgard had arranged for new dresses to be made for each of her three daughters. Bina was to have a pale peach satin, ruched and tucked along the front, Martha a blue with a sash bow at the back, and Eva, really still a child, would wear white. Bina, at fifteen, considered herself excessively ladylike, with or without the new dress. She intended behavingat the party with incomparably perfect manners, and enjoyed the prospect of showing up her mother. 'She's so vulgar,' she protested, when after dinner Marianna continued to sit at table with the men, drinking beer and beating them at cards. Bina, Martha and Eva, their old nanny comfortably asleep, would often slip out of bed to spy on her through the thick drapes that led into the dining room. 'It's no way to behave,' Bina hissed, and the others nodded in vigorous agreement, adding solemnly, 'Poor Papa, poor, poor Papa.'

Eva sat in a large armchair, looking out through the french windows to where the grass was being clipped and mown, and thought with longing of the moment when Emanuel would come home. She thought how she would climb into his lap and tease him while he read. She would pull at the little hairs that grew singly on his chin and whisper the names of girls Mama had planned for him to marry. Eva shivered as she thought of the people her mother had invited to the party. Smart brash women with loud voices and thick necks. Emanuel would have nothing to do with them, she knew that, and, besides, he had made a promise to her. It was a promise secured on their shared birthday, the year that she'd turned seven, and she'd insisted that he swear to it, pricking his finger with a pin and blotting it against her thumb.

Emanuel's arrival was overshadowed by the talk of war that came with him from Hamburg. 'It's only rumour,' he consoled his mother. 'The consensus at my university is that there will not be a war,' and he repeated his theory to various groups of guests clustered around the piano in the drawing room or strolling on the upper lawn.

    Emanuel also arrived with a birthday present for Eva. 'Did you think you were forgotten?' he teased, and she thanked him nonchalantly, gulping back relief. It was an inlaid Turkish box that shone in shades of rose and amber wood. Set in the centre was a pattern of mother-of-pearl uncurling like a flower. 'It has a key,' he told her, and when she twisted it, the box opened to reveal a lining of green felt and her name carved at the back between the hinges.

    Eva had embroidered her brother five white handkerchiefs with his initials and a scattering of pink-eyed flowers in one corner. 'He'll never use them,' Bina teased, and Martha laughed that he would most likely hide them at the bottom of a drawer. Eva glared in triumph when Emanuel shook one out and tucked it into the top pocket of his waistcoat, the flowers bursting out against the cloth. He kept it there throughout the afternoon, transferring it to his evening suit when, with the guests, he retired to change for supper.

    Of the three girls it was only Bina who was allowed to stay up for the night-time celebrations. Places had been laid for a hundred people at a long gallery of tables that spiralled round the dining room. Bina came up to the nursery where both Nanny and the governess, Fraulein Schulze, burst into praise over her dress and the way in which her hair had been arranged. Eva stared furiously into her green baize box and cursed that she was years too young. 'It's even worse luck for me,' Martha said, and it cheered Eva up a little to see that she was right.

    Their mother came up to wish them both goodnight. 'You have been more than perfect today.' She smiled, glittering in the doorway of their double room, while Martha and Eva sat at twin dressing tables and stared sulkily back at her through the glass. 'Sleep well.' She blew them each a kiss and left them to rejoin the party.

    'Did you see the earrings she had on?' Martha gasped, and Eva agreed that they were hideous. Great red rubies that dragged down the lobes of her ears. 'And such skinny arms.' She winced, continuing to give her hair the one hundred obligatory strokes insisted upon by Nanny.

    'Well, at least we have Bina to report back.' Eva brushed vigorously. 'Not to mention,' she lowered her voice, 'our own dear Schu.'

    'Now, now, children.' It was Nanny standing behind them with their nightdresses, freshly pressed and aired. 'I'm sure Fraulein Schulze will be too busy enjoying herself to have time for such nonsense.'

    'Oh, Omi, Omi Lise,' they both protested. They caught each other's eye and grinned. This was exactly what their governess had time for and what, above anything, she enjoyed. It was her wicked bedtime stories that had won them over at the very start, and the way she poked fun at strangers, livening up the walks they took even on the most dreary days, and filling her charges, each one, with a small, warm well of spite.

Eva lay in bed, listening to the distant strains of the music and running over in her mind the various eligible girls invited by her mother. Who. would Emanuel be dancing with, she wondered, and she smiled at the off-hand way in which he had accepted their attentions.

    'Martha?' she whispered. 'Martha, are you asleep?'

    Martha answered drowsily that she was.

    Eva let her lie in silence, and then, unable to contain her question, she hissed across the room, 'Martha, tell me something. Do you imagine, one day, that you'll get married?'

    Martha turned grumpily under her quilt. 'What? Of course I will.' And she turned again, and burrowed her head down under the covers.

    If Bina had been there, tucked into bed in the adjoining room, she would not have allowed her sisters to go to sleep but would have organized a spying party to outwit Nanny and slip down to the next landing where it might have been possible to see the people milling about in the tiled hall as they passed through from supper to dancing. They could have peered through the twist of the stairs, doubling back on themselves if anyone were to start ascending. 'Martha?' Eva called, feeling that they were possibly giving in too easily to their imposed curfew, but Martha lay rigid, insisting she had drifted off to sleep.

    Eva forced herself out of bed. She felt honour bound to attempt at least one glimpse of the proceedings. She knotted her long hair on the nape of her neck and, with slow fingers, inched the door until it was wide enough to slip through. Once safely out in the corridor she ran along the wooden floorboards, hanging for a second over the stairwell to check for adult hands circling the banisters and skipping down the first flight of stairs, keeping to the curve of the outside wall. At the next landing, she peered quickly over into the hall. A surge of talk and tinkling musicians floated up at her, and seeing nothing but the edges of dresses and the black elbows of men she craned further, holding on to the slippery wood and stretching her head and shoulders out into the scented air. At that moment a red-faced woman began to climb the stairs, looking short of breath in her tightened waistband. Eva flung herself back on to the landing and ran along a corridor, hiding in the deep doorway to a guest bedroom.

    When it was safe to venture out again, she scaled the crook of the stairs, clasping the wooden railings with her knees and arching her back, imitating Bina on a dozen past occasions. She had to restrain herself from calling out and waving, and wondered that until now she had put up with so many secondhand reports. Eva hung there, waiting for someone to come into her view, and then she was rewarded by the sight of the two Samson girls exchanging flushed confidences at the foot of the stairs.

    The Samson sisters were famous for their beauty, and their attendance at the party had been much discussed. Eva gazed down on their identical chestnut heads as they swayed towards each other in shared laughter. Her knees were starting to tremble with the effort of clinging, head down like a bat, when the girls, flushed and golden as French apples, were joined by her brother. Emanuel stood between them, his back against the carved post of the stairs, and lowering his voice, so that both sisters leant towards him, he began to tell them something. A story. A secret. Eva, her fingers whitening on the wood, strained impossibly for his whispery voice to rise above the music. And then as she watched, guessing at nothing, they all laughed, their three open mouths tilting upwards in the same split second to make crescents in their faces. They were still laughing, more softly and in interrupted chuckles, when Emanuel, a hand hovering around each sloping shoulder, led them away.

    Eva, cold and furious, untangled her knees and slid down to the floor. She swung round, half expecting to see Nanny scowling in her stiff white nightdress, waiting crossly to escort her back to bed, but Nanny was sitting by the nursery fire, eating a plate of marzipan roses that had been sent up to her by Fraulein Schulze. Not caring now who saw her, Eva stamped up the last flight of stairs. She trailed along the low, polished corridor, and on reaching her own room, flung herself into bed. 'Martha?' she called, but Martha refused to be woken, and with the absent Schu-Schu's vengeful name on her lips, she cried herself to sleep.

Marianna Belgard had wanted all three of her daughters to be included in the night-time celebrations. She mentioned this to her husband in the hope of enlisting his support, but he made it clear that she would come in for too much criticism, and not least from their eldest girl. Wolf Belgard smiled when he said this, softening on Bina's name, and he caught his wife around the waist and kissed her. Marianna pulled angrily away. It was easy for him to make light of these hostilities. He was well loved by his children, and he either could or would not see how from an early age his daughters had turned their backs, poking fun and scheming up between themselves to undermine her. Marianna had tried several times to explain this to him, forcing back her tears as she spoke, but he refused to believe her, only laughed and teased and attempted to draw her back into the state of cheerfulness he relied on for himself. It was only Emanuel who understood, Emanuel who took her hand and pressed it when the girls refused to let themselves be kissed goodnight, when they ran away from her in the park, or called out for their governess in small plaintive voices when they were sick.

    Marianna insisted that a place be set for Fraulein Schulze at Emanuel's birthday dinner. She still held out the hope of winning her round, and even offered up one of her own last season's dresses. But when Gabrielle Schulze entered the dining room, the dull red of the dress transformed by rosebuds stitched in satin and nestling voluptuously against the whiteness of her skin, Marianna found herself regretting it. The woman seemed to hold her head too high and Marianna noticed how, with cleverly exacting fingers, she had managed to disguise the necessary insertion of an extra panel across and under the wide sweep of her bust.

The party continued the following day with a lunch of cold meats, pickled vegetables and fruit, to be eaten in the garden. Eva woke early, her eyes swollen with tears trapped under her lids during the night. It made her skin look thick and out of focus. No one noticed. Bina was too busy telling anyone who'd listen about the dancing, and how admired she'd been by certain young men. Martha hung on every one of Bina's words. 'If you were so interested, why didn't you come and see for yourself?' Eva wanted to say, but she stopped herself, instead folding a piece of bitter bread around some cheese and chewing at the ends of it.

    By mid-morning Marianna Belgard stood, in ivory taffeta, surveying her three daughters. Bina's bright face, she noticed, held a new ferocity, while Martha as ever was vague and shy. Eva had dark childish rings under her eyes. 'Are you quite well?' She put a hand under Eva's chin, and raised the girl's face to her own.

    Eva scowled. Typical, she thought. Discovered by my enemy. And then, realizing how far she'd allowed herself to go in spite, she blushed up at her mother. The silly girl's in love. Marianna smiled, remembering herself as a child, and her heart lurched to think that they could not be friends.

    It was only the overnight guests who had been invited to the picnic lunch. Tables had been set up, draped in white, on the flagstones behind the house that caught the early-morning sun. By lunchtime the stones had warmed and the sun had settled high above the house so that chairs could be arranged in or out of the shade. Eva knelt down and placed the back of one hand on a warm flag. Without intending it, and against all orders, she had come to love this house. She walked round to the front and looked down the straight drive to where the red roofs and the church spire of the village nestled in the valley. Apple orchards spread away to each side and the fields at the back were dotted with creamy, brown-faced cows. A carriage was hurtling, its black hood up, along the drive towards her. Four horses, harnessed in leather, trotted against the hill. Eva walked forward to see who it could be. She could make out Gruber, their own coachman, sitting high up on his box, holding the reins, and as the carriage swung into the drive it began to slow. A door flew open and Emanuel jumped down. 'Manu,' Eva called, picking up her skirt to race towards him, but from nowhere her mother had appeared, beaming and chastizing, and striding, with her arms outstretched, towards him.

    Eva snorted and, just as they saw and waved to her, she took off to run round the side of the house and down to the stables where Gruber would be returning the horses to their stalls.

Eva watched her brother as he sat between the Samson girls, helping them to wine and sweet slices of frangipane, and sharing in the continuing joke of the night before.

    'Which one do you think?' Bina nudged her.

    'Which one what?' Eva scowled.

    'Is he most likely to propose to?'

    Eva put her elbows on the table and stared at the perfect smiling ovals of their faces, lit up and turned towards Emanuel. Angelika and Julika. Julika and Angelika. 'Neither,' she said, and she felt a chill like a water spider run over her hand.

    'You're useless.' Bina pinched her, snorting and moving to where Martha sat at the other end of the table. Eva watched her lips as she muttered, 'Utterly useless, what a waste,' into Martha's ear.

    Eva leant forward to catch what her brother was saying. 'Oh, yes,' Angelika interrupted him, 'of course Paris is the only place there is.'

    'For a honeymoon,' Julika added, and both sisters blushed a golden shade of pink.

    'What rubbish people talk.' Eva swore under her breath. She stood up and ran into the house, stopping only to peer into the high hall mirror to inspect her scowl and the sticky lashes of her eyes.

    The drawing room was filled with flowers and scattered with chairs and sofas, arranged in groups for the comfort of last night's guests. Eva stepped over the plum-coloured rugs, holding her nose against the cloying scent of lilies until she reached the grand piano. She let her hands fall heavily on the keys. They clashed and chimed, and her heart raced with the uneven notes. Omi Lise appeared in the door, her mouth puckered disapprovingly and a silk-fringed shawl draped over her arm. Eva caught her eye and ran.

    She skipped past the high windows, catching at the curtains and not looking back until she reached a small door covered by a tapestry. She felt behind it and found the handle. The door opened and she slipped through into a long, vaulted passageway. This corridor was cold and lined with flowering pots of marguerites. Her feet echoed on the stone floor as she walked, more slowly now, straining her eyes into damp, half-empty rooms in which, not so many years before, the previous owner, Hans Dieter, had housed his collection of ivory-handled whips and guns. The sun fell onto white stone in harsh triangular patterns, and Eva trod as softly as she could to keep the echo to a minimum.

    Through a last narrow door the corridor widened out into a circular hall. This was Eva's favourite room. It had a slanting pattern of black and white tiles over its octagonal floor and the curve of the walls made her want to spin. Through a side entrance off this hall Marianna Belgard had her own private study. It was where she talked things over with the gardeners and discussed the hiring of men and the upkeep of the stables, regretting regularly that her husband, against her good advice, had thought it safest to sell off all the land. There was a large, leather-topped desk in the centre of the room, on which lay a book of paper, ragged at the edges like raw silk, and so heavy it was hardly worth the effort it took to close it. Stone-edged windows looked out onto the flower garden, and each deep window-seat had a rug arranged on it, especially plumped and folded for Marianna's dogs. Marianna had a fleet of whippets, fawn and blue, who trotted daintily after her along the corridors, slipping occasionally and clipping the polish on the parquet floors. They stood, their eyes, like oil, popping out with sorrow when she stepped into her carriage, and when she returned to the house, even after an absence of a day, they greeted her with swirls and yelps and frantic, scampering circus twirls of joy.

    Eva heard a noise. She stopped, still on tiptoe, her eyes on the circular ceiling, and looked across the hall into her mother's study. Marianna was standing, leaning with one hand on her desk and deep in conversation with the sturdy red-faced woman with whom Eva had nearly collided the night before as she hovered on the stairs. 'Frau Samson,' Eva muttered to herself, and she raised an eyebrow. You see, she thought, our mother has no qualms about marrying off poor Manu, even when she has the plain, hard evidence of how those girls are likely to turn out! And she hunched her shoulders in exasperation.

    Eva kept an eye on her mother's profile, smiling and nodding to stout Frau Samson sitting in the window-seat, until they readied themselves to leave the room. Eva pressed herself into the curve of the wall and held her breath as her mother passed by, a whippet in tow, and walked with her companion back along the corridor, still talking lightly about troublesome cooks, suppressing a smile for the splintery patch of dog hair that had attached itself to the older woman's behind.

Eva escaped through the back door. She ran directly ahead, up the stretch of lawn to where the ice-house stood at the end of its own short drive. This tiny house was the one part of the estate Hans Dieter had taken the trouble to maintain, and the lawn that led to it was smooth and dense with years of careful tending. It had a roof like a dove-cote with rounded sloping tiles, and the pillars that supported it were freshly painted in a creamy white. Eva stepped into the cool shade of its interior and was startled by the sight of her governess standing with her eyes half closed against the door that led down to the cellar.

    'Schu-Schu,' she said, laying a hand softly on her arm. Fraulein Schulze blinked and looked at her, and without a word picked up a long tin bucket. She felt with her hands for the hidden catch and swung the door open onto the freezing store of ice.

    Eva lay down on the bench that curved into the wall and shouted down to where Fraulein Schulze rummaged underground. 'This isn't your job, collecting ice. Do you have gloves?'

    Fraulein Schulze's laugh echoed up at her through the half-closed door. 'It's not a job. I wanted ice myself.' And she reappeared with a collection of shards lining the bottom of her bucket. Eva reached in and chose a flaking tentacle which she dripped over her forehead, her nose and into her mouth. 'I've asked Cook to prepare some redcurrant ice for you. I haven't forgotten it's your birthday too.' And before Eva had a chance to pull her down on to the bench and hug her, she strode off across the lawn and disappeared into the house.

    Eva wandered back towards the terrace. She could see that the lunch party had reorganized itself into small groups clustering thickly round the table ends, while long sections of starched white linen, heavy with unfinished food, lay abandoned in between. The light legs of chairs knocked together, and girls' heads bent against the strengthening sun.

    Eva saw her brother talking to a man in uniform. They were strolling away from the rest of the party, setting out across the lawn, the toes of their shoes kicking as if they were not entirely in agreement. Several of Emanuel's friends had arrived for the party in their National Service uniforms. Thick wool jackets the colour of dung with long, scalloped pockets across their chests. The soft hats on their heads were puckered at the front with buttons and, in some cases, a badge.

    Eva took a handful of black chocolates from a bowl and followed the two men, trailing a little way behind, her eyes on the ground as if searching the lawn for stray spring flowers. Emanuel was talking in low, alarmed tones about the murder in Sarajevo of Franz Ferdinand. He put his arm on the thick cloth of his friend's jacket and wondered aloud if it would be an enforced conscription, were war to break out. 'But no one would need to be forced.' The other man shook him off, and Eva thought she saw her brother shiver in a long ripple down his back.

    'Of course, of course,' he agreed quickly, 'I myself will sign up like a shot,' and they laughed, swapping stories of military adventures, tales of bravery and daring until Eva, distracted by a clump of golden celandines growing at the edge of the fountain, let them trail out of hearing.

Continues...


Excerpted from Summer at Gaglow by Esther Freud Copyright © 1999 by Esther Freud. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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