In another aspect of this author's painful foreshadowing of the destiny of European Jews (The Age of Wonders), The Land of the Cattails is the homeland, toward which they are all struggling to return and which, like Kafka's castle, is always several leagues farther on. In fact, for Toni and her son Rudi, the journey from Vienna is so pleasant that they linger at the inns along their way, Toni's beauty and Rudi's teenage charms eliciting response from everyone. Only Toni's fear that Rudi, whose father is Christian, may resent or deny his Judaism, mars their passage homeward. When his mother develops typhus and is quarantined, Rudi starts to drink and to sleep with a girl from town. His carousing tragically delays their arrival at his grandparents' house. When at last they reach the village, Toni goes forth alone, and vanishes. Appelfeld's blend of fantasy and realism is again enormously effective in evoking the darkening shadows of the Holocaust. (October 23)
It is 1938 and Toni Strauss, a Jewish woman living in Vienna, longs to return to her homeland along the river Prut. Accompanying her on the long journey home is her adolescent son, Rudi. Rudi, whose father was gentile, has never been particularly religious and ``does not look Jewish.'' Yet as they travel eastward into the face of increasing anti-Semitism, Rudi is forced to come to terms with his heritage. Following his mother's disappearance aboard a mysterious train, he wanders like a lost lamb until he, too, decides to cast his lot with another group of Jews waiting passively, almost eagerly, for their own train. A depressing tale, but one that hauntingly captures the plightand the apparent fatalism of Eastern European Jewry before the outbreak of World War II. Recommended.David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.