"Seductive. . . A fine, subtle, sorrowful novel about the wounds of time and the urge to set things right."San Jose Mercury News
"A masterly storyteller, Pye lyrically captures his characters' struggle to answer the questions that thread through each of our lives: how do we discern our moral obligations to the people who are our family? And to what lengths, ultimately, will we go to protect them?"Vogue
"Pye isn't merely an ethicist, he's also a great storyteller. Like a good suspense story, The Pieces from Berlin keeps its mysteries shrouded,letting readers glimpse the truth here andthere, but not revealing the whole until the end. And Pye brings alive World War II-era Berlin the palpable fear in the streets, the shortages and rationing, even the horrifying beauty of a nighttime bombing raid.”The San Francisco Chronicle
"A page-turner.... Pye twists the reader's sympathies until a wholly surprising denouement in which the pieces, as in a completed jigsaw puzzle, fall neatly into place. A tough, mature, difficult, but brilliantly paced novel.” —The New York Times Book Review
Mr. Pye has a gift for conjuring up distant places and times, and in The Pieces From Berlin he does a deft job of making us see wartime Berlin through both Lucia's eyes and the eyes of 7-year-old Nicholas: the swanky parties Lucia attended with her Nazi-brass friends; the increasingly strict and demeaning laws regulating the lives of Jews; and the gathering sense of disorder in the streets. He is equally adept at evoking the experiences of Sarah's friend and would-be protector, Peter Clarke, an Englishman who spent much of the war as a P.O.W. and subsequently had trouble adapting to life in postwar London. — Michiku Kakutani
Pye writes with an impressive crispness and clarity, even when providing accounts of the past that are meant to feel highly subjective and incomplete. Nor is there a gimmicky moment in the book. Early in the novel the author makes it clear that plot embellishments, even narrative momentum, are not his concern. — John Loughery
An agonizing moral issue beats at the heart of this searching novel about individual survival at the cost of complicity with evil. Based on the case of a real woman, Pye's narrative examines the shady life of fictional Lucia Muller-Ross, who spirited vanloads of valuable antiques entrusted to her by their Jewish owners out of Berlin and into Switzerland at the end of WWII. Sixty years later, Lucia is the elderly, proud and respected owner of an antiques shop in Zurich, when Sarah Freeman, a Holocaust survivor, spies in the store's window a table she once owned. Sarah's anguished need for emotional restitution sparks a tragic upheaval in Lucia's family. Lucia's son, Nicholas, a middle-aged professor and historian, has never allowed himself to think about his mother's murky past. Lucia's granddaughter, Helen, who has been unaware of the accusations leveled against her grandmother in a postwar court case in which she was acquitted, now feels a compulsion to bring Lucia to justice. Pye's (The Drowning Room) taut, restrained prose eschews melodrama, though flashbacks to the nights when Berlin was pounded by Allied bombing are vividly rendered. In the book's most harrowing scene, "the blast bombs [were]: timpani and fire... the sky was all neon," as nine-year-old Nicholas, alone in Lucia's apartment, watches the city die. Despite Pye's control, he leans too heavily on the repetition of "anger" and "rage" to describe the characters' inner emotions. An Englishman who becomes Sarah's friend, meant to provide another perspective on wartime moral ambiguity, is more a device than a rounded character. Yet the tension mounts, and the last few chapters reveal the terrible price Lucia paid for her amoral (but perhaps excusable?) behavior. In the end, this penetrating psychological study reverberates with an urgent message: life consists of choices, and all have long-lasting consequences. (Feb. 28) Forecast: This book could be a good handsell to serious readers who may also buy Alon's The Pity of It All and Goldhagen's A Moral Reckoning. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
When Sarah Freeman passes a Zurich antiques shop owned by Lucia Muller-Rossi and spies an inlaid table that she and her husband had owned in pre-World War II Berlin, a window is opened on crimes half a century old. In the early 1940s, Muller-Rossi, Italian by birth and married to a Swiss, is in Berlin with her young son, Nicholas, living by her wits, trading sex or whatever else for privilege. Her outsider status gives her a degree of freedom not enjoyed by most Berliners, and she assists her Jewish acquaintances in hiding their belongings or getting them out of the country. As Berlin crumbles beneath the Allied Powers' bombing, she leaves for Switzerland with eight truckloads of goods, making her fortune by selling the art and antiques of owners who will never return. Even at a remove of 50 years, the sudden revelation of truth profoundly affects Lucia, Nicholas, Sarah, and those around them. The effect is not quite so powerful for the reader, who can sense the writer's shaping of the story. But that is not to say that this book is simply a stylistic tour de force. A beautifully crafted and finely nuanced tale of guilt and moral complicity, it possesses a psychological depth that sets it apart from other novels dealing with the Holocaust. Recommended for public libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
An ancient antiquarian in Zurich is held accountable at the end of her life for the wicked tactics she used to survive and prosper in wartime Berlin. Novelist, historian, and journalist Pye (Taking Lives, 1999, etc.) does slow, relentless, and at last great justice to this fact-based story of greed, theft, and betrayal and the glamorous Milanese woman around whom it’s all spun. Opening with a funeral in the chill of present-day Switzerland, Pye sets out the wanderings and musings of Nicholas Müller-Rossi, whose estranged father has just died. Unwelcomed by his half-family, Nicholas, a retired academician, nevertheless attends the rite, remembering his Swiss father’s brief closeness before the war and how the restlessness of his mother Lucia, an Italian, separated them forever. Lucia lives on. Now in her 90s, she presides over her shop of luxurious antiques and art objects, a respected if not loved pillar of the mercantile community. Her rotten business and moral underpinnings are, however, about to be exposed. Nicholas’s daughter Helen encounters an elderly woman in tears in front of Lucia’s elegant shop. It’s Sarah Freeman, whom Lucia knew and betrayed as Sarah Lindemann: the immensely pretty and valuable marquetry table in the window was stolen from Sarah in the last furious days of the Reich. Helen’s attempts to pry the story out of the bitterly reticent Sarah ultimately involve her father Nicholas and also Peter Clarke, another wartime survivor with a bitter story. Her efforts further involve the local legal machinery, and what emerges is the truth of Lucia’s life as a demimondaine in Hitler’s capital, along with all the details of how she came into possession, if not ownership, of afortune in art and antiques, spirited her loot out of Germany, and set up a life for herself and the schoolboy son who saw but did not yet understand all she did. Did she do any of it for Nicholas? Or was it all for Lucia? Is justice still achievable? Or desirable? To be read and savored before it’s ruined as a movie.